IOC President Jacques Rogge defended the massive public spending on the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil, saying the world’s two biggest sports events will leave long-lasting benefits "for generations to come."
Responding Wednesday to the recent wave of protests across Brazil, Rogge said the billions of dollars being spent on next year’s World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will bring major infrastructure improvements to the country.
"Public investments are for the long term," Rogge said on a teleconference. "Public investments are not for the short term. It’s not for the two weeks of the Olympic Games or the month of the FIFA World Cup.
"The investments are for generations to come — be it the metro, be it the bus line, be it improvements of the airport, be it improvement of the harbor. This will serve (the) community for a very long time."
The street demonstrations that hit Brazil last month began as opposition to transportation fare hikes, but expanded to include protests against a wide range of grievances, including the high cost of the World Cup and Olympics. The protests took place as Brazil hosted the Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament for the World Cup.
A Brazilian government report last year put the projected cost of stadiums, airport renovations and other projects for the World Cup at $13.3 billion. City, state and other local governments are spending more than $12 billion on projects for the Olympics in Rio, the first city in South America to host the games.
Rogge said the International Olympic Committee will need to get its message across that the games will have a positive impact in Brazil.
"We’ll have to explain very clearly to all the public that the investments made for the Olympic Games (are) going to give a sustainable legacy for generations to come," he said. "That is the message that we are sending and we’ll be making very clearly in the future.
"Yes, the games are a force for good; the games improve a society. It has to be explained because on first sight most people don’t know exactly what the investments are."
With Brazil hosting the World Cup and Olympics back to back, the country is facing major challenges to finance and organize both events. Rogge said Brazil is up to the task.
"I believe the FIFA World Cup will be a big boost for the Olympic Games," he said. "I believe the FIFA World Cup will be a success. … As far as public funds are concerned, this is the sovereign decision of any government that organizes the Olympic Games."
While Rio has experienced delays in some of its Olympic preparations, Rogge said the project remains on track.
"We have urged our friends of the organizing committee to accelerate," he said. "But I remain optimistic and there is absolutely no concern whatsoever on the quality of the games."
Rogge also reiterated his confidence in Russia’s security measures for next year’s Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, despite the threat posed by an Islamist insurgency in the area. Last week, a top Chechen rebel warlord called on militants to disrupt the Sochi Games.
On a separate issue, Rogge confirmed that the IOC executive board has decided not to add any new disciplines or events to the sports program for the Rio Games.
The IOC had been examining proposals by sports federations to add new events, including 3-on-3 basketball and BMX freestyle in cycling. Swimming had also proposed including new events.
Rogge said the federations made too many requests that would take the Olympics beyond the cap of 10,500 athletes and 300 medal events.
Rogge, who steps down in September after 12 years in office, said future changes will be left to his successor. He said the IOC will undertake a new study on disciplines and decide on any changes in 2017 for the 2020 Games.