Organizers of soccer’s World Cup responded today to street protests by saying the tournament is creating thousands of jobs and “doing plenty of good things” for Brazil, which has spent almost 30 billion reais ($13.5 billion) on infrastructure projects for the 2014 event.
Senior officials from FIFA, soccer’s governing body; the Brazilian government; and local World Cup organizers gathered in Rio de Janeiro to issue data that they say proves hosting sport’s most watched event next year will be a boost for the country and not a burden that diverts public funds.
More than 1 million people have taken to the streets amid complaints that Brazil’s focus on the sporting events has taken funds from education and health-care programs. They are the country’s largest protests since 1992, when Brazilians called for the impeachment of President Fernando Collor.
“I think there’s a need to express all the good jobs we are doing,” Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, told reporters at the Maracana stadium. “We are doing plenty of good things. It’s never enough, but I’m not ashamed of what we are doing.”
FIFA said it expects to collect more than $4 billion from the sale of television and marketing rights for the 32-team World Cup. Brazil currently is hosting the Confederations Cup, a test for the World Cup that has been played amid countrywide protests that have grown larger since the opening game on June 15, where Brazil President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA head Sepp Blatter were jeered.
In two days, Brazil meets Uruguay in the first Confederations Cup semifinal in Belo Horizonte, a city where police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets at demonstrators who tried to get into the stadium as Japan and Mexico played on June 22.
Valcke said the events have created thousands of jobs in the catering and hospitality sectors and that FIFA will be paying 448 million reais on hotel rooms at the World Cup. The soccer body is also spending $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion to stage the tournament, including prize money, and any profits won’t be “used to run around in a big Mercedes Benz but to develop the game around the world,” he said.
Protestors have lashed out at FIFA’s demands of tax exemptions for corporate partners such as Coca-Cola Co. and Adidas AG, as well as hosting requirements that needed the Brazilian parliament to pass special legislation. Fans at Confederations Cup matches have chanted and displayed banners opposing the competition in Brazil, which has won the World Cup a record five times.
“FIFA is the real president of this country,” Romario, a former World Cup champion and now a member of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, said two days ago. “FIFA comes to our country and imposes a state within a state. It’s not going to pay taxes, it’s going to come, install a circus without paying anything and take everything with it.”
Brazil is spending almost 30 billion reais to host the World Cup in 12 cities. Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said today that the government hadn’t explained clearly enough that most of the costs are for projects Brazil needed even without the World Cup or the 2016 Olympics.
“There’s been failure of communication,” Rebelo said. “I must emphasize the budget that the country will have for health and education comes up to 177 billion reais this year alone, that’s the budget for 2013. The budget for the sport ministry represents 1 percent of that value, including expenses for the World Cup and the Olympics.”