MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The ball gets rolling Thursday at the World Cup in Brazil.
Millions of soccer fans are ready, but construction crews are still working and putting the final touches on projects as critics wonder if the hosts can manage one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
Brazil has poured more than 11-billion dollars into making the world cup a success. But in the 12 cities where the matches will be played, construction delays have meant a last-minute rush to prepare airports, roads and stadiums.
Crews in Sao Paulo were still working this week to get the city’s World Cup stadium ready in time to host Thursday’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia, reports CBS News’ Elaine Quijano.
The stadium includes thousands of temporary seats and has not been tested with a capacity crowd.
Getting to the stadiums will be a challenge.
Brazil’s major cities are notorious for constant gridlock which has been made worse in recent weeks by on-again-off-again transit strikes.
And just days before kick-off, a monorail under construction and behind schedule collapsed and killed one worker.
American professor Chris Gaffney lives in Rio de Janiero. He’s been studying the country’s cup preparations and its attempts at transformation.
“The sense of being tricked is very strong in brazil. Because of course people love football. And people love the World Cup, as a cultural event. But the FIFA event is something new to Brazil. And that has generated a lot of disenchantment,” said Gaffney.
The disenchantment is playing out on streets across the country. At a protest in Sao Paulo, activists and citizens rallied against the government’s world cup spending.
“The question we ask since 2011 is World Cup to whom?” activist Danilo Cajazeira.
Cajazeira says working class fans can’t afford the sky high ticket prices to home team games and in the long run most Brazilians won’t benefit from the new stadiums.
“People are losing their houses, they are losing their lives, and in the end we are not even able to watch the games, so I think the message is, these are not for you.”
On Tuesday night, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, delivered a nationally televised speech defending the games. She said that despite all the protests and strikes, every Brazilian should support their team and country as the team prepares to play their first match.