I have just returned from an exciting and fascinating trip to Brazil. The trip started in Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon and the scene of England’s recent World Cup humiliation. Manaus was once the centre of the worldwide rubber industry, and the richest city in Brazil. The centre still reflects that prosperity but the rest of the city is now a sprawling home for about a million people, ringed by jungle. It is vibrant, but by no means affluent.
On the edge of the city are the twin embarrassments of the Arena Amazonia and Manaus International Airport. Both were built for last year’s World Cup. The Arena cost some $300m and I would imagine that the airport cost a similar amount. Four football matches have thus far been played at the stadium. It was asserted that it would be used by local teams after the World Cup but local teams draw crowds of around 1,000 people; Arena Amazonia seats 42,000. As a result, the stadium is unused, and may never be used again. The airport is at least used but a medium-sized international airport has been built to cope with traffic flows little greater than Inverness. Between them they represent a scandalous waste of money.