While construction work at the Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo continues with less than 10 days to go before the start of the World Cup, Brazilian government officials said that the country is ready for the event. Brazil’s major airports are ready to handle and supply double the predicted demand, and access ways to the stadiums have been completed, according to Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo. However, he acknowledged that people coming to Brazil will see a lot of construction. Rebelo told SBD Global that this summer’s tournament provided an opportunity to improve the country’s infrastructure. "And this is being done," he said. Brazil’s society has undergone a major shift since the early 2000s as roughly 40 million were lifted out of poverty and joined the country’s growing middle class between ’03-11, according to the Fundacao Getulio Vargas economic think tank. Referring to the country’s growing middle class, Rebelo said that these people require and deserve a better transportation system, security, health and education services.
NOT JUST FOR FOOTBALL: Tourism Minister Vinicius Lages added that the improvements in infrastructure were never exclusively meant for the World Cup, but for the benefit of the host cities. "The World Cup means a departure point, and not an arrival," he said. In addition to infrastructure, the government’s focus is on what the World Cup means for Brazil’s economy and global image. Rebelo pointed out that as a result of the World Cup cycle, $142B reais ($62.7B) will be injected into the economy. It will help the country generate 3.6 million jobs and attract new national and int’l investments. Brazil’s Trade & Investment Promotion Agency, in partnership with national enterprises, will bring 2,300 potential int’l investors to Brazil to take part in business talks during the World Cup, which could lead to $3B in business. For Lages’s tourism ministry, predictions have been equally positive. The country expects 600,000 foreign visitors and around 3 million Brazilians travelling around the country during the month-long event. Lages told SBD Global that the World Cup’s economic effects will add nearly $30B reais ($13.2B) to the Brazilian GNP in ’14. Lages: "It’s a unique moment to promote tourism, to conquer visitors, to improve our international image and also to fight against inequality."
THE OTHER SIDE: Rebelo and Lages view the World Cup as an opportunity for Brazil. Demonstrations and protests during last year’s Confederations Cup and leading up to the World Cup, however, showed that not everybody agrees with this point of view. Lages downplayed the demonstrations, saying that they are a constitutional right. "I do not believe that we will have many demonstrations against the FIFA event," he said. The protesters, who are arguing that the billions spent on the World Cup could have been put to better use, also accuse World Cup organizers of corruption. And skyrocketing costs have not helped to quiet those voices but have added even more fuel. Lages said that budget adjustments are nothing but natural. "Some changes are performed due to the bidding’s format or also because of modifications in the original project," he said. "It happens when improvements are good for the results."