“It’s a thrill to stand here with the Cup, the real deal,” said Biden. “You have to attend a World Cup to know what it means to people. It’s the most unusual sporting event I’ve ever attended. It’s in the air, it’s a palpable sense of energy that I’ve never quite experienced before.”
Kerry underscored how important that unity was in building good relationships around the world. “The Department of State has a long history of working with athletes,” said Kerry. “And athletes, frankly, can be some of our finest ambassadors.” He noted the Boston Celtics’ trips behind the Iron Curtain in the 1960s and the “ping-pong diplomacy” that helped open up China in the 1970s. “This trophy represents the shared hopes and dreams of billions of people around the world. I can’t think of anything that unifies people as much -- that brings out the best and shows our commonality.”
Those who have been on the World Cup pitch agreed. “It’s these wonderful lessons we learn about ourselves, our self-esteem, our self-discipline, our ability to work with teammates, all these great things you learn through sports,” said Julie Foudy, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and a two-time World Cup winner. She spoke at the ceremony, held in downtown Washington, D.C.
“Only one team will win, but the party is for all,” said Luis Fernandez, Brazilian Vice-Minister for Sport. “Let’s bring the world together.”
American fans hope this won’t be the last time they see the famous golden trophy. With more than 150,000 tickets sold in the U.S., Americans will be the second-largest group behind the host nation. But Brazil is a favorite to secure a record-extending sixth win.
The World Cup begins June 12th in Brazil. Local support for the Cup has been waning as the date draws near and costs soar. Estimates put the total costs of hosting the Cup across a dozen Brazilian cities at $10.9 billion, which critics say would be better spent on schools and infrastructure rather than soccer stadiums. Last year’s Confederation’s Cup, a tune-up for the World Cup, drew widespread protests.
Brazil will host the World Cup for the second time this year, and the first time since 1950. The U.S. is the last leg of the Trophy Tour, which made stops in 88 countries in the nine months leading to the World Cup.