- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

SAO PAULO (AP) - FIFA doesn’t like the choice of Manaus as a football host city for the 2016 Olympics, saying it prefers games be played at cities closer to games center Rio de Janeiro.

Football’s governing body said Friday it does “not consider Manaus as a suitable first option for a hosting venue.”

FIFA’s statement came a day after Rio organizers announced they were adding Manaus to the list of proposed host cities to “integrate all of Brazil” in the games. The city is about 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) from Rio in the Amazon jungle.

The other proposed cities, beside Rio, are Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Brasilia. All of them hosted matches during last year’s World Cup.

FIFA said the organizers’ proposal will be discussed in March, when FIFA’s Olympic organizing committee meets in Zurich.

“FIFA has always been in favor of using the FIFA World Cup stadiums since all of the infrastructure is already in place,” the governing body said. “Given that the Olympic Football Tournament is only two weeks long, FIFA’s preference has also always been on short distances between the other football venues and the Olympic city Rio de Janeiro to provide the participating teams with the best possible Olympic experience.”

In addition to the distance from Rio, Manaus could also be a problem because of the heat and humidity in the region. There were complaints during the World Cup because of the weather conditions in the city, including from the international players’ union, FIFPro.

Football is the only Olympic competition that will be played outside of Rio.

A veto of Manaus would come as a blow to Rio Olympic organizers and the Brazilian football federation, which have been praising the city as a good choice and as being fully capable of hosting matches.

“Considering our concept of the games being for all of Brazil, the inclusion of Manaus makes good sense,” said Carlos Nuzman, president of the local Olympic organizing committee. “The Amazon rainforest is one of the country’s most emblematic symbols and we would like very much to include Manaus in our proposal to integrate all of Brazil in the games. The five cities we have approved were great successes during the World Cup.”

FIFA’s stance against Manaus appeared to come as a surprise to Brazilian organizers. Before FIFA released its statement, Manaus officials made public comments already considering the city as an Olympic venue.

FIFA also said Friday that it “welcomes” the choice of using two venues in Rio de Janeiro - the Maracana, where the World Cup final took place, and likely the Engenhao stadium, which will also host the athletics competitions at the Olympics.

Sao Paulo also wants to use two venues. One is expected to be the Itaquerao stadium, which opened the World Cup. Two other stadiums are also being considered locally, Sao Paulo’s Morumbi and Palmeiras’ recently built Allianz Parque, widely touted as one of the best arenas in Brazil.

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