BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — FIFA’s top two officials Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke remained silent Monday over questions about the integrity of Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Blatter met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in a ceremony in the capital Brasilia, where he handed over the World Cup trophy ahead of the tournament that starts next week. He spoke only briefly, wishing Brazil well, and did not take questions.
“This is a historical, emotional moment passing on the cup of cups from the hands of the last champions to the president of Brazil,” Blatter said, speaking a mix of Spanish and Portuguese.
Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, spoke earlier at the opening of the World Cup media center in Rio de Janeiro.
Walking through the center, he was asked for a comment about Qatar. He shook his head several times and kept walking without saying a word.
The Sunday Times newspaper in Britain reported it has obtained millions of documents detailing irregular payments to football officials from a former member of FIFA’s executive committee, Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar.
Rousseff, speaking in the presidential palace, hinted at possible protests during the World Cup but said visitors would get a warm welcome.
“We are a democratic country,” Rousseff said. “A country that respects freedom of protest, and freedom of expression. … To foreigners who plan to visit, we wish them — in the name of all Brazilians — a warm welcome. You’re going to find a transformed Brazil.”
Brazil, where the World Cup opens June 12 in Sao Paulo, has been widely criticized for delays in preparing stadiums, and a failure to deliver other promised improvements to roads, rails and airports. The government has also faced protests over the $11.5 billion spent on the World Cup, with about $4 billion for 12 new or renovated stadiums.
Four are expected to become white elephants after the World Cup.
“In the next six weeks we will continue to work a lot so the World Cup 2014 will be the cup of cups,” said Rousseff, who is up for re-election in October.
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