Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, saying her country is ready to host the World Cup football tournament opening Thursday, dismissed criticism of the massive costs of staging the event.
Angry protests have erupted in recent months across Brazil over the $11 billion spent to build stadium and transportation projects in the 12 host cities. Demonstrators say the projects have siphoned money away from other services, such as health and education, and have blamed the huge cost overruns on official corruption.
In a nationally televised address Tuesday, Rousseff said Brazil has increased spending on health and education by more than 200 percent since 2010. Despite the problems associated with hosting the World Cup, the president said Brazil was ready and eager to welcome the world.
"The pessimists said we were not going to have the [World] Cup because we would not have the stadiums, but the stadiums are there and they are ready," Rousseff said. "The pessimists said we were not going to have the Cup because we would not have the airports, but we almost doubled the capacity of the airports that are ready to receive whoever comes to visit us and to give comfort to millions of Brazilians."
Rousseff said Brazil would continue to reap the benefits of the infrastructure projects long after the World Cup competition ends in mid-July. She also vowed to seek punishment against anyone found to have engaged in corruption.
On Thursday, the host country takes to the pitch against Croatia.