BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — President Dilma Rousseff said Friday that on the eve of the World Cup's final match this weekend, her country has proved doubters of Brazil's ability to organize a big event wrong.
Despite widespread concerns before the tournament, the World Cup has widely been hailed as a sporting success and the hundreds of thousands of fans in Brazil have roundly applauded the warmth of the Brazilian people and the lively party atmosphere.
"We showed that our people know how to have good interaction not only among ourselves but with the foreigners that we received as well," she said at the presidential residence during a meeting with a group of foreign journalists. "We competently maintained peace and order, as well as having good airport administration among other successes."
For years leading up to this World Cup, there were serious concerns voiced both by foreigners and Brazilians alike about preparations for the event. The building of stadiums and virtually everything else related to the tournament ran far behind schedule, and many planned public infrastructure works tied to the event were scrapped or never completed.
Many feared that Brazil's crowded airports would be overwhelmed as fans moved around the continent-sized nation to attend matches in 12 host cities.
However, transportation has been far better than forecast, which industry groups have said is partly because the number of air passengers during the month of the World Cup was significantly lower than normal. With Brazil essentially on holiday for the games, there were far fewer business travelers and many ordinary Brazilians avoided trips because of high ticket costs during the tournament.
Opinion polls have said Brazilians remain evenly split on whether or not the World Cup will bring real benefits for the country. Anger over the $13.5 billion spent on the tournament helped fuel huge protests last year that filled streets in cities across the country as people called for quick improvements to woeful health services, education, transportation and security.
Protests this year never regained the mass proportions witnessed a year ago, though there was a steady drumbeat of demonstrations, often violent, in the months leading up to the World Cup. Yet during the event itself, the number of protests further dwindled in number and size, in large part because of a heavy police presence on the streets.
Many soccer fans are calling this one of the best World Cups in decades, given the high-level of play on the field and lack of serious hitches in logistics for fans as they made their way to stadiums.
That, Rousseff said, bodes well for Brazil as it gets set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In recent months, Olympic officials from outside Brazil have blasted the country's preparations for that event, again pointing toward behind-schedule building among other problems.
But Rousseff met in recent days with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who is touring Rio.
"The IOC president told us that he's extremely satisfied with our preparations for the Rio Olympics," Rousseff said. "He said he considers our Olympic village among the best he's yet seen."
Turning back to the World Cup, Rousseff said that she had "never seen such a campaign against something so large, with so many doubts about the success of a Cup as we encountered in Brazil."
"Well, we've eliminated the doubts of all who didn't believe in us," Rousseff added.