London: Mass protests against inequality are unlikely to disrupt the World Cup in Brazil, the country’s sports minister Aldo Rebelo said on Monday.
Crime rather than terrorism posed a greater threat to football fans heading to Brazil for the June-July tournament, the minister added at a speech in London.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets during the Confederations Cup last year to protest against spending on the World Cup and insufficient investment in public services such as transport, health and education.
There are concerns that such protests could flare again in large cities during the World Cup, but Rebelo said there was no union, church group or social organisation seeking to foment unrest.
“Protesting is a right but destruction and threats to life, this is not protesting, this has to be combatted,” he added.
“We all know that Brazil is an unequal country. Football has no responsibility for inequality in Brazil,” Rebelo told an audience at London’s King College.
Disparate protest groups used social media last year to coordinate their plans during the Confederations Cup. Rebelo said that they could have halted the Confederations Cup — a dry run for the World Cup — had that been their aim.
Brazil is racing against time to complete stadiums, airports, communications infrastructure and transportation systems as the June 12 opening day approaches.
Such concerns are typical of major sports events but Brazil’s preparations have been plagued by delays and controversies and five of the 12 venues missed a December 31 completion deadline originally set by Fifa.
“We will have all the stadia ready,” Rebelo said.
High crime rates in Brazil are another worry and here the minister offered limited reassurance.
“The country will be prepared to welcome the tourists, the delegations with all the care necessary,” Rebelo said.
He played down the threat of a terror attack but said that visitors had to be wary of street crime.
“There is the common crime — the police, the military, everything is being done,” he said.
However, Rebelo said he believed that more fans would decide to go to Brazil, the spiritual home of creative football, as tour operators put more rooms back on the market and prices fell.
“I think these tourists will go back to the idea of participating, both domestic and foreign fans. There will be places for people to stay.”