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FIFA Dismisses Criticism From Rio Mayor Over World Cup Focus

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke dismissed criticism from Rio de Janeiro’s mayor over soccer’s governing body’s focus on stadium readiness for next year’s World Cup.

Mayor Eduardo Paes, in an interview to be aired tomorrow by ESPN’s affiliate in Brazil, said the “FIFA environment isn’t the best in the world” and said the organization isn’t interested in infrastructure projects such as mass transit that would leave a legacy. He called Rio’s hosting of the 2016 Olympics an “embarrassment” given the lack of preparedness of Brazil’s athletes because of poor federal sports policies, according to a preview of the interview on ESPN’s website.

“If he hasn’t yet understood what is the legacy of the World Cup, I’m speechless,” Valcke, FIFA’s top administrative official, told journalists in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. “Maybe he should just look at the Olympic Games and just forget about the World Cup.”

Demonstrators took to the streets in the biggest protests in two decades during June’s Confederations Cup, a warmup for the World Cup. They took advantage of global interest in the soccer tournament to criticize government spending on stadiums instead of public services like hospitals and schools.

Brazilians still want to host the World Cup, Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo told reporters today in Rio de Janeiro. The government will work with airlines to evaluate increasing domestic flights during the tournament to ease transport, he said.

FIFA’s Lesson

The lesson FIFA has learned from Brazil is that the organization should require national approval before analyzing a bid to host international sport’s most watched-event, Valcke said. The organization may ask countries to submit their bids to host the 2026 World Cup for approval by their legislatures.

FIFA values more than just stadiums and puts importance on transport infrastructure as well, Valcke told reporters today in Rio.

“But, again, we don’t have the World Cup without stadiums, I’m sorry to say,” he said. “Where do you want to play, on the beach? Fine. But that’s the Beach Soccer World Cup, and we have it in Tahiti next month.”

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