Prezados amigos do futebol,

Just landed back in Zurich from a development seminar in South Africa where I had the pleasure of witnessing again more positive footprints left by the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. I remember well all the doubts and criticism which accompanied the last few months of the preparations in South Africa and how the event staging was constantly put into question by the media. Nearly four years later, the common perception is that it was an outstanding World Cup, fuelling the confidence of a whole nation, boosting the trust of international business and the country was also strengthened by the improvements in the IT and general infrastructure, enhancing tourism at the same time. Unfortunately, pessimism is a common trend when it comes to staging major events. But in the end it always works out.

And despite the tight race on Brazil applying the final key operational elements, people can already see exactly this same legacy taking shape – at least those who want to see it. All the reports I receive indicate just how fast and hard Brazil is working now to complete preparations, not only for the World Cup, but also for improvements to the country’s cultural, urban and transportation infrastructure that will continue to serve generations to come. The diverse social projects, which include teaching people to work in a multitude of service sectors, are a great testimonial for this. Not to mention the sporting legacy, which should never be forgotten in the country of football, as Brazil is on the verge of entering a new era in terms of stadiums and spectator services.

Furthermore, FIFA has a comprehensive sustainability strategy ranging from the training of stadium operators to help them manage and maintain the stadiums in a sustainable manner, to providing audio-descriptive commentary services for blind and visually impaired fans for the first time in Brazil during the World Cup. The equipment and the trained professionals will remain in Brazil and this will be another important legacy to be introduced at Brazilian championship matches to ensure football is for all. 

One other fascinating project is “Walk Again” from Prof. Miguel Nicolelis. Our team is working closely with Prof. Nicolelis’s team to see how best we can integrate the opportunity to showcase for the first time worldwide, during the opening ceremony, a paralysed teenager who will walk onto the pitch, clad in a mind-controlled robotic body suit. Football is about hope, and to envisage that in the future, millions of paralysed people will have the ability to experience the joy of walking again is a care that FIFA and myself are fully supporting.

As we enter the final stretch together, most of the preparations are well underway. More work remains in the next 69 days, however, and we are continuing our close cooperation with the Brazilian stakeholders, to ensure that everything needed for the matches to succeed is in place. This is our responsibility to nearly 2.6m fans who have bought tickets to date, and the 32 teams. Things are moving ahead at full pace in Curitiba and Porto Alegre - two of the three key challenges we face. I was and am still very sad about the tragic accident in Sao Paulo. Safety is paramount and that is the utmost priority whether it is during construction or the event itself. My thoughts remain with the family and the colleagues of Fabio Hamilton da Cruz. There have been some very tragic fatalities over the last months at the construction sites in Brazil which, as a family man and father, affected me deeply.

Taken the advanced stage of the assembling of the complimentary facilities at the stadium for the Opening Match, we are confident that the impact on the schedule will be limited and that the stadium will be able to host test events as of mid-May. And the testing is crucial and on-going at various venues across the country, as happened this Thursday in Manaus, when some aspects of the World Cup operations were implemented. Our operational teams have started to set-up the infrastructure for the broadcasters, the goal-line technology and the media facilities. It will be a record attendance from media – we expect about 18,000 media representatives from more than 160 countries around the world. With a joint effort by all parties, we will be in in time, trusting that everything is being done by the host cities and the federal government so we can provide the best level of service in spite of the tight schedules. Next week we will host the 2nd leg of the preparation camp for the referees of the 2014 FIFA World Cup here in Zurich.

I look forward to hearing more positive news from our partners in organising the World Cup in Brazil on how the challenges we still need to overcome are being accomplished over the next few weeks, just as I look forward to coming to Brazil again after Easter. Around the same time, the FIFA World Cup Trophy will land in Brazil on its final leg, the domestic tour presented by our partner Coca-Cola through all 27 states. This will be accompanied by the rhythm of the official song “We Are One (Ole Ola)” which will be released on Tuesday 8 April.

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Jérôme Valcke