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Brazil go into the tournament losing

Logotipo de AS AS 12/06/2014 Alfredo Relaño

2014 World Cup Brazil kicks off later today with tournament hosts Brazil taking on Croatia. It’s a moment which should be a one of celebration for the whole world – particularly for Brazilians, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are ongoing protests in seven of the 12 host cities, fears of transport strikes, security forces on permanent alert and if that’s not enough, a number of stadiums and facilities remain unfinished. Photographs from training sessions, teams arriving and departing dropped onto my desk yesterday – as did other images of public outcry on the streets and half-finished construction work. And yet the summer showpiece event starts today...

In one sense, Brazil begin the tournament losing. Instead of complying with FIFA’s recommendation of having eight host cities, they have elected 12. That means more money needs to be spent and more has to be shared out. Costs of staging the event have spiralled to 11,000 million euros – more than double what the last edition in South Africa cost. And while initially, it was promised that costs would be met by private investors, it turns out that six out of every seven euros it has taken to finance the competition will come out of the State purse – to put in more bluntly, the general public will foot the bill. To add insult to injury, it’s common knowledge that much of the budget has been liberally pilfered – even Joana Havelange, a member of the organizing committee made a stupid and highly-inappropriate joke about cash being siphoned off.

President Dilma Rouseff will be in attendance for the opening day of the tournament but he won’t appear on television screens or make an inaugural speech for fear of being heckled. We’ll see whether he surreptitiously sneaks into the VIP box. And neither will Sepp Blatter, who was hounded in yesterday’s Congress, make a public address. Even Jennifer López was reconsidering whether to cancel her scheduled performance at the opening ceremony. In the end, she has decided to go ahead with it, on the understanding that the protests are nothing against her directly. Later, the ball will be kicked into play and responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of Neymat, Marcelo and company, who have the task of bringing some happiness to a nation which feels like they have been mocked and bullied by the ruling classes.

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