SAO PAULO - Mistakes have been made in organizing and communicating the benefits of the 2014 World Cup but Brazil will still put on a "fantastic" tournament in June and July, Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes said on Wednesday.
Fernandes said the federal government was excluded from part of the decision-making process between 2007, the year Brazil was awarded the right to host the tournament, and 2012.
"It would have been better to have had government representatives on the board of the local organizing committee of the World Cup from the very start," he told international reporters in a conference call.
"We were only included in that process a little more than two years ago and I think if we had been included from the very beginning the level of integration would have been greater and that would have been better.”
Fernandes said it should not have been assumed that the benefits of staging the tournament in Brazil were evident to all and lessons had been learned for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio has already drawn much of the same criticism that has assailed haphazard World Cup preparations over the last few months. Three of the 12 World Cup stadiums are still not 100 percent finished with the opening game just two weeks away.
Much of the promised public transportation infrastructure has either been scaled back, abandoned altogether or will not be ready in time for the first World Cup to be held in South America since 1978.
In Brazil's defense, Fernandes suggested some parts of the developed world were prejudiced against developing nations.
"I wouldn’t say there’s a media campaign against Brazil,”he told reporters. "I’d say there is in general a sector of society that is prejudiced against the capacity of developing countries to deliver this type of event.
"We can only respond to prejudice with achievement. We are confident that Brazil will surprise the world with a successful event."
Fernandes played down the prospects of more unrest during the month-long tournament and guaranteed safety and security for an estimated 600,000 foreign fans and three million Brazilians who are expected to travel to watch the 64 games.
Millions of Brazilians took to the streets during last year’s Confederations Cup to protest bus fare hikes but the anger was also directed at the cost of stadiums and insufficient investment in public services like health, housing and education.
A new wave of protests and strikes has hit the country over the last few weeks.
Fernandes said it was "natural" for workers to use the World Cup to press for higher salaries and better working conditions but warned that security forces will crack down on violence.
He guaranteed contingency plans were in place in case of strikes or unrest that could affect games.
"While the World Cup gives people the platform to express their demands to a global audience, I feel that is only natural and understandable," he said. "What we will not tolerate, as we are a democratic state, are acts of violence or vandalism and there will be zero tolerance of that."
"We have to have a democratic policy guaranteeing the rights of people to have peaceful demonstrations for whoever has a demand to voice, but at the same time guarantee the conditions needed for the security of the event. And those will be guaranteed."
(Additional reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Alan Baldwin)