RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil's Deputy Sports Minister said Wednesday that Brazil would organize a successful World Cup despite what he called "prejudice" against so-called developing countries as they try to organize mega-sports events.
"We are confident that Brazil will surprise the world with a successful event in the World Cup," Luis Fernandes said, speaking Wednesday with reporters in a teleconference.
"There is no embarrassment and no panic. We are absolutely confident, excited and proud that we will deliver a fantastic World Cup in Brazil. That's the general atmosphere in government. We are absolutely confident."
Brazil's preparations of the World Cup, which opens June 12 in Sao Paulo, have been characterized by delays building or remodeling 12 stadiums, unfinished upgrades to airports and transportation, and criticism the $11.5 billion being spent should have been used to improve the country's poor schools and rundown hospitals.
Last week, Ronaldo, who won two World Cups with Brazil and has worked with local World Cup organizers, said he was "embarrassed" by the "total confusion and lateness" of stadiums and allied infrastructure.
Fernandes defended the preparations, said the World Cup investment would boost the economy, and argued that "developing" countries are judged differently as they plan the World Cup or Olympics.
"There are sectors in society in general that have prejudice with respect to the capacity of developing countries in general ... to deliver this kind of event," Fernandes said, echoing a statement made recently by his boss — Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo.
"There is absolutely no contradiction between a developing country hosting a major event such as the World Cup or the Olympics Games, and increasing investment in education and in other public areas."
As Fernandes spoke, Jerome Valcke — the top FIFA official in charge of the World Cup — urged organizers in the northeastern city of Natal to move faster.