Thu, Mar 06, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Brazilians celebrate 100 days to finals

MIXED MESSAGES:While the president said Tuesday was a ‘special date,’ an opinion poll last week showed that support for staging the World Cup had fallen to a new low

AFP, RIO DE JANEIRO

The Bandeiras Monument is lit in the colors of the Brazilian national flag to commemorate 100 days until the FIFA World Cup finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Brazil on Tuesday marked 100 days to the FIFA World Cup finals with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announcing major public buildings in the host cities would be bathed at night in the national colors, green and yellow, and in the 12 stadiums, while FIFA looked forward to an “exceptional” event.

World soccer’s governing body has criticized the country for the slow pace of preparations throughout after the giant nation was awarded the chance to host back in 2007 and by Tuesday, five of the venues had still to be officially inaugurated.

However, Rousseff said Tuesday was a special moment and Brazil was in the final furlong to stage the competition for the first time since 1950.

“Today [Tuesday] is a very special date for all Brazilians. There are 100 days to go to the Cup and the country is in the final furlong with preparations for the grand fiesta,” Rousseff said on her Twitter feed. “Today, the host cities will be lit up green and yellow to remind people that the moment everyone is waiting for is on its way. Brazilians are ready to show they know how to receive tourists and contribute to making this the Cup of Cups.”

Rousseff’s fellow leftist predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was in charge when the country won the right to host the event for the first time since 1950.

Although FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said late last month the country would now have to “break the speed limit” to ensure it is totally ready to welcome 3 million domestic tourists and about 600,000 foreign visitors, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he is sure the event will prove “exceptional.”

“It will be, in 100 days, an exceptionally good start for an exceptional competition. The Brazilian spirit of the game and the Brazilian ability to play football makes this World Cup very, very special. I’m sure it will be a great, great success,” Blatter told FIFA’s Web site.

Brazil lost the final to Uruguay in 1950 at the Maracana, which is hosting this year’s final on July 13, having to wait a further eight years to start their record collection of five World Cup victories in Sweden.

Brazilians, currently enjoying the pleasures of the week-long Carnival festivities, have in recent months protested at the estimated US$11 billion cost of staging the tournament, complaining the cash would have been better spent on poor infrastructure and creaking public facilities.

Although support for the protests — which have been small, but on occasion violent — has been slipping, a Datafolha opinion poll last week showed support for staging the World Cup had also fallen to a low of 52 percent from 79 percent in 2008, just after the country won the right to stage the tournament.

The poll put opposition to the finals at 38 percent from an initial 10 percent.

The buildup has been plagued by construction delays which saw the city of Curitiba almost axed from the venue list, but saved last month after FIFA accepted it was getting back on track.

There also remains work to do at the Sao Paulo stadium that will host the June 12 opening ceremony after a crane fell on the stands in an accident in November last year which killed two workers.

There have also been three fatal accidents in Manaus — where England take on Italy in their group opener and which is due to be inaugurated on Sunday — and one in Brasilia.

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