By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Rio Times looks north, this time, to the state of Amazonas this week in the series on Brazil’s World Cup 2014 host cities, and more specifically the capital Manaus, which will see matches leading to the biggest prize in sport contested there in three and a half years time.

Manaus' famous Amazon Opera House, photo by SkyscraperCity.

Far more rurally located than the majority of cities that will welcome footballing superstars from across the planet, Manaus nevertheless receives its fair share of visitors due to its proximity to the rainforest.

There are several boat trips tourists can take to explore the ever depleting Amazon; as well as giving people the chance to see the jungle for itself.

In addition to sitting so close to one of Brazil’s most popular tourist spots, Manaus itself also houses its own attractions. The Amazon Opera House, completed after fourteen years of construction in 1897, is one of the country’s most famous theaters, and has hosted some of the world’s largest singing sensations.

Manaus is also close to the jaw-dropping Lion Waterfall, situated halfway between Manaus and Itacoatiara. If you prefer a change of pace from the beach, this is the perfect place to head to – a unique stand-out point amongst the twelve 2014 World Cup cities.

When it comes to sports in this corner of the country, Manaus also stands alone. For it is not football (soccer) that takes center stage here, but the martial art of jiu jitsu. Derived from the Japanese martial art of Kodokan judo, Manaus is home to one of Brazil’s greatest fighters. 24 year old José Aldo, an expert in Muay Thai and jiu jitsu, is the current World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion.

Manaus' old Stadium
The old stadium demolished to give place to the Arena da Amazônia, photo by Jorge Brazil/ Flickr Creative Commons License.

The Arena da Amazônia is presently under construction in Manaus, and will be completed by late 2012, ready to host both the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. The stadium will have a capacity of 46,000, and is being built on the site of the newly demolished Estádio Vivaldo Lima, which began to be dismantled in July of this year.

As well as building the stadium, a sports leisure center and shopping mall are also part of the project. Because football (soccer) is not such a vital part of Amazon life, the extra facilities mean the area will not be standing empty once the World Cup fair has disbanded. The total cost of the works is around R$580 million.

As well as pumping money into a new stadium, a huge sum has also been set aside to improve the city’s Eduardo Gomes airport.  Infraero, the Brazilian government corporation in charge of the overhaul, has pledged R$740million to expand the airport’s runway and build a second, as well as extending and renovating the passenger terminal. The runways will be ready by the summer of 2013, while the terminal will be fully refurbished by December of the same year.

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