Manaus mayor to defend World Cup host's image in UK
11 December 2013, 17:24
Manaus, Brazil -The mayor of Manaus, a host venue for the 2014 World Cup, said he would go to Britain soon to counter press reports that his city is a "crime-ridden hell-hole".
"I will soon visit England and will give a press conference," Arthur Virgilio Neto told reporters.
Manaus, one of the 12 Brazilian cities where the high-profile tournament is to be held, will notably host an explosive England-Italy game next June.
"We are a city in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, with its problems like elsewhere, but there are no venomous snakes crawling in the streets or tarantulas falling from trees," Neto said.
He was reacting to articles in the Daily Mail and London tabloid the Daily Mirror at the weekend variously referring to Manaus as a "murderous" city and a "crime-ridden hell-hole" where England fans will risk their lives" if they go there to watch their side play Italy on June 14.
"I love England. I have been to London many times but I never had the honor, unfortunately, to read the Mirror, Neto said, adding that he had called the British ambassador to Brazil to help him arrange the London visit.
The mayor specifically refuted the Mirror's allegations that Manaus, a city which once grew rich on rubber and is famed for its opera house, is "crime-ridden".
The crime rate in the northern industrial metropolis, home to nearly two million people, dropped by a third this year, he said.
"We have new police cars that patrol the streets 24 hours a day," he added.
The Mirror reported that Manaus was a "poverty-stricken city (which) had 945 homicides last year. Armed and drug-crazed thieves roam shanty towns which are no-go areas for tourists."
And the Mail took a similar line, helpfully adding pictures of tarantulas and snakes.
The Mirror said other risks included "poorly maintained roads and low standards of driving" in a city it said had been taken over by brutal cocaine barons."
Manaus' new Arena Amazonia where the United States, Portugal, Croatia, Cameroon, Honduras, Switzerland, England and Italy will all play, is still under construction.
England coach Roy Hodgson infuriated Neto ahead of last week's World Cup draw when he said Manaus was a place to avoid -- though Hodgson was referring to the tropical heat England will now face there.
"We prefer that England don't come. We will cheer for a better team coming here with more football and a more sensable and polite coach," Neto said hours before the draw at Costa do Sauipe last Friday.
But he later insisted: "We shall surprise them with the hospitality of the Amazonian people."