The U.S. team has arguably the most brutal travel schedule of all the 32 teams in the Brazil World Cup this summer, but nobody affiliated with the tournament is racking up as many frequent flier miles as the golden 14-inch-high, 13-pound World Cup trophy, which made a stop in Miami on Tuesday.
The trophy, one of the most recognizable icons in sport, is in the final week of a 90-country, nine-month global tour, during which it will cover 92,000 miles. It stopped in Washington, D.C., on Monday and visited the State Department, where it posed for photos with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
On Tuesday morning, it traveled by corporate jet to Miami, where it was welcomed by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera. From here, it is on to Atlanta (Coca-Cola is the tour sponsor), then to Los Angeles for a weekend fan festival, and next Monday heads to Brazil.
The World Cup begins in 57 days, and despite reports of stadium construction delays and skepticism about Brazil’s infrastructure, tickets are flying. The last ticket sales phase began Tuesday on fifa.com, and within four hours, 126,837 tickets had been sold.
Brazilians bought the most tickets (80,496), which was 63.4 percent of total sales. The next 10 highest number of ticket orders came from, in order, USA, Colombia, Argentina, Germany, Mexico, France, England, Chile and Australia.
In all, 2.9 million tickets were made available to fans, and 2.57 million had been sold as of Tuesday. The top six countries for tickets sales were Brazil (1,041,418), USA (154,412), Australia (40,681), England (38,043) and Colombia (33,126).
Traveling in the trophy’s entourage were some officials from FIFA and the Brazil World Cup organizing committee. They said they feel confident that the World Cup will be a success and prove critics wrong.
They pointed out during a meeting with the Herald on Tuesday afternoon that skepticism is normal before big events, and that negative reports also preceded the South Africa World Cup in 2010, the 2012 London Olympics and the recent 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Luis Fernandes, Brazil’s deputy minister of sports, said he is “absolutely confident’’ his country will be a good, proud host.
“I think there is a universal cycle where there is a lot of support once your country or city is chosen to host an event like this, then it tends to fall, and then it picks up closer to the beginning of the event,’’ Fernandes said. “It happened in London 2012, the days before there was predominantly criticism by the public and media.
“There is also a trace in our Brazilian culture of a chronic inferiority complex, that we’re not on par, that everything works better abroad. We inherited that from the Portuguese, and there is a strong element of it in our culture.’’
Hosting a World Cup will help change that mentality, Fernandes said.
“We are a more powerful country now, playing a new role in the world, so staging a World Cup and doing it efficiently will change the projection of the Brazilian image to the world, and show us that we are capable, as capable as any other nation to host this event.’’
As proof, the Brazil officials said, they hosted the 2013 Confederations Cup, and it was deemed a major success.
“We had a very major test event, an event that became very tense because of the unexpected demonstrations last summer, so we were tested to the limit,’’ Fernandes said. “The competition wasn’t effective, the atmosphere in the stadiums was very positive, technical was very good, and Brazil won. We passed the test.’’