Headlines are screaming that Brazilians don’t want the World Cup. This is not reflected in public opinion polls nor by what we have witnessed on the ground in Brazil during the on-going FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour. Some 300,000 people have so far stood in line to gain a glimpse of football's most coveted prize - the FIFA World Cup Trophy - during its tour of Brazil's 27 states, which will continue until 1 June. Surely that shows a groundswell of support for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
This is reinforced by the 11 million-plus ticket requests made to date: a figure unprecedented in the event's history. You can feel the mounting anticipation among the 32 teams and football fans in Brazil and around the globe. This sentiment is underlined by the latest research conducted in 15 key markets across the globe including Brazil by Sponsorship Intelligence. Overall 75 per cent feel positive about the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil and over 50 per cent worldwide are very excited about the event; in Brazil that figure is 57 per cent.
I arrived in Brazil just this morning and will now remain in the country until after the Final is played. At the moment, I am here to see that the finishing touches for the FIFA World Cup operation are completed in time for kick-off. Over the coming days I will - together with Vice-Sports Minister, Luis Fernandes, and the CEO of the Local Organising Committee, Ricardo Trade - visit once again all 12 host cities. We will be focusing primarily on ensuring that all is in place for the 32 teams, the approximate three million fans watching the matches live in the 12 arenas and the billions watching the event on TV.
Over the weekend, the remaining venues staged their test events, including the Arena de Sao Paulo, where in 24 days the opening match between Brazil and Croatia will launch the race to win the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup. As of Wednesday, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee will start receiving one by one the stadiums - 21 days before the first match in the respective venues. Sao Paulo will be the first on 21 May, with Curitiba, Natal and Salvador on 25 May the last. Only three days later on 28 May, Australia will become the first of the 31 teams from abroad to land in Brazil. The coaches of the 32 teams have already announced last week their extended squad lists, to be reduced until 2 June to the final 23-player line-ups.
We have busy days ahead of us with still a lot to be done in a collective effort by FIFA, the LOC, the federal government, the host cities and states. Our operational teams have begun fanning out to the venues for the final installations such as media tribunes, broadcast compounds - the places where the TV stations from all over the world set up their temporary offices, the satellite parks to ensure that the images are transmitted around the world, the hospitality catering tents, all established with the look and feel of the FIFA World Cup. I can't wait to see first-hand the progress made since my last visit.
On Tuesday, Ronaldo, Fernanda Lima, Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, the Mayor of Rio and artist Romero Britto will join me at a very special event in Caju/Rio der Janeiro. There we will launch the Football for Hope Festival, which will take place from 3 to 10 July in Caju. The Festival will contribute to the social legacy of the FIFA World Cup, bringing together 32 teams composed of young leaders from community projects supported by FIFA in underprivileged communities in Brazil and around the world.
There's no doubt: ‘Vai ter Copa’. In fact, the FIFA World Cup has already arrived in Brazil. And the whole world is watching in anticipation. Over the next eight weeks we are now together to make this story, which started seven years ago, a success story for all of us: Brazil and FIFA.