Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, responded angrily at criticism voiced by former soccer star Ronaldo over mishandled preparations for the World Cup. In an interview with Reuters Ronaldo lamented that many infrastructure projects promised for the tournament were significantly delayed, scaled-down, or canceled, while some stadiums remain unfinished just over two weeks from kick-off.
“I am sure that our country will put on the Cup of Cups,” Rousseff said in a speech in Brasília, without naming Ronaldo directly. “I am proud of our accomplishments. We have no reason to be ashamed and we don’t have an inferiority complex.”
The president was replying to Ronaldo’s comments that were re-published on the front page of Brazil’s major newspapers on Saturday and received heavy media play, prompting the government to fire back.
“It’s a shame. I am embarrassed, this is my country and I love it and we shouldn’t be transmitting this image abroad,” Ronaldo said, who as a member of the Local Organizing Committee is one of the most visible backers of soccer’s world governing body FIFA and the Brazilian government.
Earlier in the day Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said Ronaldo’s comments were tantamount to a “shot against one’s own goal,” considering the soccer star was heavily involved in the Cup preparations himself.
The government’s response comes amid efforts to protect both the nation’s image and that of Rousseff herself as she comes up for re-election in October.
While Ronaldo agreed in the interview that criticism levied by FIFA over the Cup preparations were fair, he noted that the event did bring about some improvements in Brazilian cities such as Cuiabá, one of the 12 cities that will host the games.
“I saw cities with many construction projects…who knows how many would have been done in Cuiabá if it weren’t for the World Cup?” he said.
Protests in São Paulo
Brazil is facing new protests and strikes as bus drivers continued their walkout in São Paulo’s suburbs and Rio de Janeiro braced for demonstrations a little over two weeks from the World Cup.
The bus drivers’ strike stranded commuters in 10 towns in the greater São Paulo metropolitan area for a second day. It came on the heels of a two-day strike by their colleagues in the city center that affected more than a million people and caused transport chaos in the country’s economic capital.
The suburban drivers are demanding a 10% salary increase, like their counterparts in the city.
“Only 13 buses left the garage” in the suburb of Osasco, said union spokesman Roberto Meiado.
São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, has 20 million people in its greater metropolitan area, and buses are the backbone of its public transportation network.
Employees of its metro system are meeting next week to decide whether to stage their own strike.
Brazil has been hit by a wave of strikes and protests in the months leading up to the World Cup and elections in October. Teachers, police and bank security guards have all gone on strike in recent days.
The protesters say the more than 11 billion dollars being spent on the tournament would have been better used on education, health care, housing and transport.
Thousands of people joined earlier a similar rally in São Paulo organized by the Homeless Workers’ Movement.
São Paulo will host the opening match of the World Cup on June 12, and Rio the final on July 13.
Last year, protests during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, drew one million people to the streets and at times turned violent, to the embarrassment of tournament organizers.
FIFA has told fans buying World Cup tickets from unauthorized sellers that they could be barred from stadiums. FIFA said that it “cancels tickets discovered as illegally sold or re-sold with the bearers risking not being permitted entry.” FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said some fans have already been affected.
“Over the last few weeks we have unfortunately seen more and more people leaving our ticket centers disappointed as they failed to collect their tickets purchased through unofficial websites,” Weil said in a statement.
FIFA said its website is the “only legitimate source” for tickets, including a re-sale section for buyers unable to attend.
Soccer’s governing body did not identify “companies, websites and individuals” it said were “offering tickets to unsuspecting fans through unauthorized resells at exorbitant prices.”
The Stubhub website was offering tickets made available by buyers priced from 2,300 dollars for the Brazil-Croatia game on June 12 in São Paulo. Viagogo’s cheapest offer was for 1,149 dollars.
FIFA said it is a crime in Brazil “to sell or supply a ticket for more than the face price,” and it has provided information to prosecuting authorities.
“The efforts are not limited to Brazil but applied on an international scale in engagement with local authorities in relevant jurisdictions and in particular in close collaboration with consumer protection authorities, which have far-reaching and efficient legal resources,” FIFA said.
Almost three million tickets were made available for the 64 matches. Adding seats for guests and media, the total World Cup stadium capacity is expected to exceed 3.3 million.
The 2014 World Cup is the most valuable, lucrative and expensive in FIFA history. Record numbers include a 35 million prize to the winning team’s soccer federation, 4 billion commercial revenue for FIFA, and a 14 billion bill for Brazil.
“The financial success – we have it, it is done,” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said this month of the World Cup commercial operations. “The ticket sales success is there, we have never sold so many tickets.”