With less than 100 days to go until the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off, Brazilian football legend Ronaldo reflects on the excitement that's building in his homeland.
Less than 100 days. It's hard to believe it`s so close. It seems like only yesterday that Brazil was confirmed as the 2014 FIFA World Cup? host nation. I remember the excitement I felt once I realised that my country was going to stage the most important football event on the planet.
Even though I won`t be out there on the field, I'm starting to get the same butterflies in the stomach as I used to do when a big game was coming up. After all, the World Cup will be a kind of "final" for Brazil, in terms of the country establishing itself on the global stage. The spotlight will be on us, and it's a great chance to show the world just what`s so special about Brazil and the Brazilian people.
With the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics taking place here in Brazil, we have the chance to prove to the world not just how much we love sport, but also how strong we are economically. Brazil is a world leader in biotechnology and one of the biggest meat, mineral and soya producers on the planet. Very soon thousands of tourists and foreign journalists will arrive on our doorstep, anxious to discover the real Brazil.
Although Brazil is a country of great social contrasts, we have made significant progress in tackling this problem in recent years. We are a diverse but unified society, a land of talented, determined, creative and innovative people - characteristics that are captured perfectly by Neymar`s dizzying, magical dribbles, the music of Tom Jobim, and the scientific achievements of Miguel Nicolelis, whose exoskeleton research has given paraplegics hope that they may one day walk again.
Brazil is such a colourful country, blessed with breathtaking natural beauty. Tourists that come here for the World Cup should prepare themselves for an unforgettable experience. Whether it`s from visiting the beaches of the northeast, witnessing the vastness of the Amazon River, or taking in the dazzling blend of ocean and mountains that makes Rio de Janeiro such a special place, every visitor will take home a treasured personal memory. Brazil is a place of great happiness and joy, and we will welcome World Cup visitors with open arms. But until then, we must keep working.
As a 2014 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee Management Board member, I have been lucky enough to observe up close the dedication and skill of the workers who are helping to construct this unique event. In all 12 host cities I've witnessed the commitment of the thousands of people who are striving to create the best World Cup possible.
We faced some tough tests during the preparations. Last year, we hosted the best FIFA Confederations Cup in history. That`s not just my opinion, but also that of fans, journalists, and even FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.
Less than six months later, we successfully organised another challenging event: the Final Draw at the Costa do Sauípe in Bahia. And after we discovered in which cities the games would be played, the 32 national teams that will dispute the tournament discussed their operational plans with members of the LOC, FIFA, and the Brazilian government.
This exchange of ideas and opinions between organisers and national teams is an ongoing process, and another key event, the National Teams Workshop at the Costão do Santinho in Florianópolis, took place last month. Subjects such as safety, transport, and how the teams are to be looked after were discussed in detail.
Now we`re really on the home straight. Since the beginning of the year two new stadiums have opened: the Arena das Dunas, in Natal, and the new Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. They`re beautiful, just like the Arena Amazonas, the Arena da Baixada, the Arena Pantanal and the Arena Corinthians, which are also almost ready.
By the time the World Cup begins, all the stadiums will have carried out test events. These are of vital importance so that the tournament organisers can make final adjustments to their plans.
There is not much time left now until the tournament begins and the greatest players on the planet go head to head. Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Iniesta, Neymar... I can`t wait. I`ll be expecting you in Brazil. See you at the World Cup!