SAO PAULO —
Brazil's biggest city and the site of Thursday's inaugural World Cup match is still reeling from a three-day strike by transit workers, one of several protests that have questioned whether the country has spent too much on football's premiere event and not enough on schools, hospitals and other services.
While, Brazil's economic capital appears to be getting back to business, everybody still remembers the fact that striking metro workers blocked the city for three days and worried the world.
Downtown, store owners hope they can make up for lost business. With FIFA's World Cup starting Thursday, they think visiting tourists will be a bonanza for them.
"I was really affected by the strike. I'm from Santana [North of San Paulo], and I use the subway a lot. Everybody was affected. My sales went down because nobody was able to come downtown because of the strike," said Maria Elizabeth, who owns a store near the Republica metro station.
At the stadium where the opening game will take place between Brazil and Croatia, the rush is on. Officially, the Corinthians Arena is ready, but you can still see workers on the job. Temporary elevators or tarpaulins are everywhere.
Around the stadium, landscapers prepare newly planted grass. It's a last-minute effort. Delays like these have been a major issue, and the Brazilian organizing committee for the Cup has been heavily criticized the past few months.
"We have had World Cups in different countries over the past 50 years and no one until now was challenging FIFA as Brazilians are challenging FIFA," said Rafael Alcadipani, with the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
"So I think this is a very strong message to the world. Brazilians are saying 'we don't accept this kind of governance in football in the world.' We have to change FIFA to make football popular again."
The criticism of the committee is not a big concern for fans from around the world who are eager to see the games. Whether children or adults, they only dream about the Cup.
“I am really happy. This country is wonderful, people are welcoming and adorable,” said Maria, a fan from Chile.
So, the party is on. Fans are only waiting for the referee to blow the whistle to kick-off the 2014 World Cup.