Whether you know your Neymar from your Thibaut Courtois, the one thing you need to keep in mind as the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament kicks off this week is that the host city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is one of the wildest places on earth. From its legendarily colorful Carnival to its famed shantytown favelas built alongside towering skyscrapers, Rio is a city of contradictions, wonder and thongs, tons of thongs.
As you get up to speed on which of the more than five dozen matches to watch, we provide a list of some of the most insane facts about Rio and the World Cup:
1. That’s A LOT Of Soccer
Do the math on how much World Cup action ESPN is planning to air and the figures are mind-boggling. Even if the 64 matches all went just the regulation 60 minutes, that’s more than three days straight of action — not to mention the usual injury time outs and other breaks.
2. Have You Seen This?
No trip to Rio is complete without a trip to see the 130-foot-tall Christ The Redeemer statue that keeps watch over the city. As one of the seven wonders of the modern world, it’s amazing to behold — just don’t do what this guy did.
3. Not All Brazilians Are Psyched
Even with more than one billion eyeballs on their country and the influx of tourist dollars, many in Rio and all across Brazil are angry about the amount of money being spent to host the tournament at a time when many Brazilians are stuck in desperate poverty.
4. Rio Is HUGE
Though games will take place in 12 cities in Brazil, many of the spotlight matches will take place in Rio, a city of more than 6.3 million people. That’s a big city, but the greater Rio area has more than 12 million inhabitants, which makes it about as big as New York and Los Angeles combined. And keep in mind, Rio is only the second biggest city in the country.
For the first time ever, the matches in this year’s World Cup will use goal-line technology, which involves a chip planted inside the ball that can determine conclusively whether it has crossed the goal line. The new system uses seven 3-D cameras focused on each goal, with the system able to determine within one second if a goal has been scored, then relaying it to an official’s watch.
6. Whatever, Bonnaroo
Sure, we have some big festivals here in the U.S. But Rio’s famed Copacabana Beach has been the site of two of the biggest shows in history. On New Year’s Eve 1994 Rod Stewart played to the biggest concert crowd ever when 3.5 million fans crowded onto the beach, and in 2006 the Rolling Stones drew more than 1.5 million to the same spot.
7. Don’t Mess
Among Rio’s most famous exports are famed MMA fighting family the Gracies (including UFC hall of famed Royce Gracie, below) and Anderson Silva.
8. This Guy’s From There
Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti was born in Rio.
9. The Fans Are Dedicated
How football crazy are Rio’s soccer fans? According to this story, a Rio gentleman by the name of Delneri Martins Viana is so obsessed with his local team, Botafogo, that he visits the tattoo parlor every Thursday to get another homage to the club, with 83 pieces inked so far. Other superfans get the maroon and green colors of Fluminense FC, de Carvalho painted on their teeth.
10. No, It’s Not Just A Clever Name
The Brazilian wax did, indeed, gets its start on the beaches of Rio when thong bikinis became popular. Only, Brazilian women don’t call it that, because the term was coined by the J Sisters in Manhattan in 1987 when their salon began offering the service.
11. It’s Written On The Walls
Famed Rio graffiti artist Acme threw up this piece recently, honoring the death of dancer Douglas Rafael de Silva Pereira, whose body was found in one of the city’s favelas last month. Ahead of the World Cup, the Brazilian government has attempted to “pacify” the favelas, which has led to an increase in violence.
12. There Are, Like, 50 World Cup Anthems
The official official 2014 FIFA World Cup Song is called “We Are One (Ole Ola),” and it features Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez. But then there’s the Official 2014 FIFA World Cup Anthem called “Dar um Jeito (We Will Find a Way),” with Santana, Wyclef Jean, Avicii and Alexandre Pires. Coca-Cola has its own Official FIFA World Cup Campaign Song, “The World is Ours,” by former “X Factor” star David Correy. Columbian star Shakira also has an unofficial called “La La La (Brazil 2014),” featuring Brazilian legend Carlinhos Brown, while “Cup of Life” singer Ricky Martin has thrown his tune, “Vida,” into the ring also. And then there’s One Love, One Rhythm: The Official 2014 FIFA World Cup Album, which features all those songs, plus track from the Isley Brothers, a number of Brazilian acts as well as the Baha men, Magic! and Brazilian singer Arlindo Cruz, whose “Tatu Bom De Bola” is the, wait for it, Official 2014 FIFA World CUP Mascot Song. Whew! And don’t even get us started on 5SOS or Lily Allen.
13. All That Party Don’t Come Cheap
The most expensive World Cup ever cost an estimated $14 billion, with nearly $4 billion spent on building new stadiums and $900 million for security.