For one month, Brazil will be putting its best cleated foot forward as the world turns its attention to the bustling, colorful country for the duration of the World Cup. For the uninitiated, it’s also a prime opportunity to become acquainted with the richly diverse economic powerhouse.
Here's a snapshot of Curitiba, one of 12 host cities throughout the games.
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Best known for its emphasis on green spaces, public transportation, infrastructure and sustainability, Curitiba is home to 1.8 million residents and lies about 400 km south of Sao Paulo.
The capital of Parana state makes repeated appearances on ‘world’s smartest cities’ lists, including a 2009 ranking by Forbes magazine in which the city placed third on the top 10 list, namely for its system of free community education centers/libraries, known as 'lighthouses of knowledge,' and its high-speed bus network which operates much like the underground subway -- a model that’s been replicated across Latin America in cities such as Bogota, Mexico City and Santiago.
The city has been referred to as the “ecological capital of Brazil” for its network of 28 parks and forests: It’s estimated that the city has about 56 square meters (600 square feet) of green space per resident and 145 km (90 miles) of bike paths.
Curitiba also boasts bragging rights to being home to the country's first pedestrian-only street, Rua das Flores, and the popular Botanical Garden and The Flower Museum.
Meanwhile, according to reports, organizers are frantically trying to finish construction on the city’s Arena da Baixada, with about a week to go before the city plays host to its first match of the tournament between Nigeria and Iran on June 16. When complete, the stadium will be able to host 42,000 spectators.
Visitors to Curitiba may also note strong European influences, as the city was settled by German, Italian, Polish and Ukrainian immigrants who helped shape the cultural and gastronomic landscape.
One of its most distinctive architectural sites is the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, one of the country’s biggest and most modern museums, recognizable for its unique eye shape.
Here are a few facts and figures:
Population: 1,751,907 people
Altitude: 945 meters
Area: 435,495 square kilometers
Climate: Subtropical. The period between June and July is the city's winter, with temperatures reaching 0 C.
Temperature: Average of 21C in the summer and 13C in the winter