World Cup budget already spent or stolen, says organiser

Brazilian social movement activists and natives hold a protest against the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brasilia on May 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Brazilian social movement activists and natives hold a protest against the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brasilia on May 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

SAO PAULO (AFP) - A member of Brazil’s World Cup organising committee sparked controversy on Tuesday by telling protesters angry over the tournament budget that the money had already been spent or stolen.

Reacting to the wave of protests over the more than US$11 billion (S$13.8 billion) being spent on the event, Joana Havelange chided demonstrators calling for some of that money to be redirected toward health, education and transport, telling them they were too late.

“I want the World Cup to go off as well as possible,” said Ms Havelange. “I’m not going to fight against it, as however much was spent, stolen, already has been,” she said on her Instagram page.

Ms Havelange, is the daughter of the powerful former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Ricardo Teixeira.

“If it was necessary to protest (at the spiralling cost of the event) then people should have done so beforehand,” she said in the post, which was later deleted.

“I want people coming from abroad to see a Brazil which knows how to welcome, to be friendly,” she added.

“I want those who come to come back. I want to see a beautiful Brazil. My protest against the World Cup will be during the (October general) elections.

“Furthermore, to destroy what we already have will not change one iota what will be done tomorrow.”

Her message, 16 days before the opening game, came at a time of heightened tension in Brazil amid a series of strikes and protests against the cost of building a swathe of expensive new stadiums and staging the Cup in 12 cities across the giant country.