Brazil is ready for the World Cup, the country’s President Dilma Rousseff declared Tuesday, just two days before the tournament begins. She went on to rebuke “pessimists” who have criticised the country’s role as host of the event.
Rousseff acknowledged that organizing the cup was tough, but she insisted that the 12 stadiums were ready and told foreign fans that Brazil would welcome them with "open arms" like Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue.
"Brazil overcame the main obstacles and is ready on and off the pitch for the cup," she said in a nationally televised address.
Construction of the stadiums and transport infrastructure for the tournament, which gets underway on Thursday when Brazil face Croatia in Sao Paulo, has been plagued by delays and cost overruns that have left the country with an $11 billion bill – making it the most expensive World Cup ever.
Workers were seen racing to finish up Corinthians Arena, the stadium that will host the opening match, just last weekend.
Massive tournament spending fueled sometimes violent protests last year over rising public transport prices and demands for the government to allot funds for hospitals and education instead. About half of Brazilians polled have said they oppose their country even hosting the World Cup.
The demonstrations have been smaller in recent months but the threat of more protests once the tournament gets underway remains.
‘The pessimists have been defeated’
"For any country, organizing a cup is like playing a game, sweating and often suffering, with the possibility of extra-time and penalty kicks," Rousseff said. "But the final result and celebration are worth the effort."
The leader rebuked those who argue Brazil has spent too much on the Cup, saying that since 2010, the government has spent more than 200 times what it invested in stadiums on education and health care.
She also promised that investments in stadiums, airport terminals and other infrastructure would provide long-term benefits for the country.
"The pessimists...have been defeated by the hard work and determination of the Brazilian people, who never give up," she added.
Rousseff, whose poll numbers are slipping ahead of an October political election, concluded her speech by urging all Brazilians to rally around their team, whom she addressed directly.
“Beneath those green and canary jerseys, you embody a powerful legacy of the Brazilian people. The national team represents nationality,” she said. “It’s above governments, parties and interests of any group.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-11