Rousseff Says Cost to Host Brazil’s World Cup Worth the ResultAnna Edgerton
President Dilma Rousseff rejected criticism of World Cup spending, saying preparations for the soccer tournament will improve Brazil’s infrastructure and stimulate the economy. She said Brazil is ready to host the games.
“The result and final celebration are worth the effort,” she said yesterday in a televised address to the nation, two days before the first match. “Brazil overcame the main obstacles and is prepared for the Cup, on and off the field.”
Works designed to accommodate tourists for the matches will result in an almost doubling of airport capacity and a more modern system of public transportation, she said. Rousseff dismissed reports that Brazil won’t be ready for the games, ruling out the risk of a power failure while saying fans can enjoy the matches safely in any of the 12 host cities.
Public opinion polls show Rousseff losing support ahead of presidential elections in October as voters grow increasingly skeptical about the benefits of hosting the tournament. More than 1 million Brazilians protested in the streets last year against issues including government spending priorities and poor public services during the Confederations Cup, a warm-up for the World Cup.
About 60 percent of Brazilians oppose hosting the World Cup because it diverts money away from public services, according to a Pew Research survey released June 3. The poll of 1,003 people from April 10-30 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Brazil invested about 8 billion reais ($3.6 billion) to build and refurbish stadiums for the games, almost four times the amount it told soccer’s governing body arenas would cost in the 2007 hosting file. The financing was made possible by a combination of federal banks as well as local state governments and private resources, the president said yesterday evening.
Rousseff played down concerns the government was shirking its duty to invest in social services, saying from 2010 to 2013 it spent 212-times more on health care and education than stadiums. She added that arenas would benefit Brazil after the tournament ends, serving as multiuse venues for sporting events, shows and in some cases commercial areas.
“The Cup doesn’t just represent spending, but also brings with it benefits for the country,” said Rousseff, a trained economist. “It injects billions of reais into the economy. It creates jobs.”
Nearly four years of above-target inflation and the slowest economic growth during any presidency since Fernando Collor, who stepped down in 1992 amid a corruption scandal, have taken their toll on Rousseff’s electoral prospects.
Voter support for Rousseff fell to 34 percent in June from 37 percent in May, according to a Datafolha poll that pitted her against other potential candidates. The June 3-5 poll published on Folha de Sao Paulo’s website has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
World Cup organizing committee member and former Brazil national team player Ronaldo said last month he was appalled by preparations. Less than half of the projects will be complete in time for the opening game and soccer’s governing body told more than 1,000 fans they would have to exchange tickets because their seats haven’t been installed in time.
Rousseff yesterday said stadiums and airports are ready.
“For any country, organizing a Cup is like playing a game that’s difficult -- and often times painful,” she said. “In the game that starts now, the pessimists already are losing.”