Brazil's president defends World Cup, says country ready
BRASILIA - Agence France-Presse
In this June 2, 2014, file photo, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff waves to children at a ceremony where FIFA President Sepp Blatter presented the 2014 World Cup trophy to Rousseff at the Planalto presidential palace. AP PhotoBrazilian President Dilma Rousseff said June 10 her country was ready to host the World Cup in two days, rejecting criticism of delays, overspending and chaos in the tournament's preparations.
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. "The pessimists... have been defeated by the hard work and determination of the Brazilian people, who never give up," she added, saying the tournament would leave a lasting legacy of infrastructure.
Construction of the stadiums and transport infrastructure was plagued by delays and cost overruns that left Brazil with an $11 billion bill. Workers were seen racing to finish up the opening game's stadium, the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, just last weekend.
Spending on the tournament fueled sometimes violent protests last year over rising public transport prices and demands for the government to spend on hospitals and education instead.
The demonstrations have been smaller in recent months but the threat of more protests looms over the World Cup when Brazil opens the tournament against Croatia on June 11.
"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."