Support among Brazilians for hosting soccer’s World Cup has fallen to an all-time low with the kickoff of the month-long tournament less than four months away, according to a poll released by Sao Paulo-based Datafolha.
The number of Brazilians backing the World Cup, which will be staged in 12 cities at a cost of 25.6 billion reais ($10.9 billion), has fallen from a high of 79 percent in November to 52 percent, Datafolha said yesterday.
The costs of staging the 64-game tournament have come under greater scrutiny following Brazil’s biggest protests in a generation during last year’s Confederations Cup, a warm-up event for the main event which begins June 12.
“In the analysis of socio-demographic variables, we observe that the support of the World Cup fell even among the segments that most supported the event,” Datafolha said, following interviews with 2,614 people between Feb. 19 and Feb.
Brazil, where soccer is by far the most popular sport, is going for a record-extending sixth World Cup championship. Yet the tournament has become a totem for some protest groups who argue the money going towards building infrastructure like stadiums would be better spent on improving the country’s public schools and hospitals.
Last week officials from soccer’s governing body FIFA were in Brazil where preparations have fallen behind schedule in several cities, most notably Curitiba, which was almost thrown off the schedule because of concerns its stadium wouldn’t be ready in time. FIFA said it wouldn’t be reducing staff or the visibility of its brand in reaction to public opposition, which has included anti-FIFA chants and banners used at demonstrations.
“FIFA is not feeling it’s the target,” FIFA’s security head Ralf Mutschke told a news conference in Florianopolis, Brazil, after meeting with officials from the 32 competing nations. “We are not hiding ourselves and our symbols. We are proud to be here and to celebrate the World Cup.”
Groups such as an anarchist movement known locally as the Black Bloc have already said they plan mass disruption during the tournament. Datafolha said support for the protests has also fallen to 52 percent from 81 percent during their height last June.
The demonstrations have fallen in frequency and scale in recent months, though have become more violent. A cameraman died earlier this month after being struck by an explosive device in Rio de Janeiro. Military police in Sao Paulo said they arrested 262 people following a protest over the weekend there where demonstrators chanted “There will be no Cup!” and “Cup for the rich, scraps for the poor!”
FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke said last week that some plans are being changed as a result of the threat of the protests during the World Cup, including a new location of the “Fan Fest,” a World Cup screening area, in the capital Brasilia, which had some of the worst violence last June.
Brazil will deploy 150,000 police and military personnel, and a further 20,000 private guards, during the World Cup. President Dilma Rousseff has promised the event will be the “cup of cups.”