The great influx of immigrants coming from all four corners of the world is one of the main contributing factors to the cultural, social and economic enrichment of Brazil in the 20th Century. People's dreams to build a new life in a new country has helped Brazil to shape the society that we are now blessed with. We could say that this was, indeed, the Brazilian dream. The Portuguese, Spanish, Arabs, Italians, Jews, Germans, Japanese, French, Dutch and British - they all helped to lay the foundations of this country. Not to mention, of course, the original influence of the indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants that reside in all Brazilian's today.
This miscegenation of peoples and cultures transformed Brazil into a great melting pot of ethnic success. Our past, so important to the country that we are today, should not be regarded simply with nostalgia, but instead as an instrument with which to build a modern Brazil that is even more open to the world. The prominence that we have today in the global geopolitical scene can and should be increased. With a more open economy, we can count on the experience and knowledge of immigrants. The unique competition between Arabs and Jews in São Paulo has driven the high quality medical services provided there.
Several countries have policies to facilitate the entry of foreigners, such as implementing simple visa rules or even eliminating the requirement altogether, without setting aside security concerns. The approval of the temporary visa waiver by the National Congress for the 2016 Olympic year is a step in the right direction. The visa waiver will assist the entry of athletes, their families and other visitors and we would hope that this measure be made permanent after the Games, benefiting the many nations of which we have good relations.
Over recent years we have hosted important events that have brought thousands of visitors to Brazil. Such was the case with the Confederations Cup, Rio+20 conference and World Youth Day. This cycle ends in 2016 with the hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The success of these events, both from an internal perspective (with new infrastructure and workforce skills) and an external perspective (as identified by the praise given by foreign visitors) is an opportunity for us to move forward on the path to a more open Brazil.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Brazil is the 102nd most closed country in the world. That number may not sound too bad, but it represents wasted potential for a country that is also number one in terms of natural promise. We have invested heavily in large events and the results are positive, however, we still have a proportionally small number of foreign tourists and need to open up more. Today we can see, for example, that our airports have improved because we accepted a combination of external capital and expertise. What is more, Brazil gained 30 positions in the global competitiveness ranking because it held the World Cup, but more specifically, because it invested in improving its stadiums and airports.
Alongside the cycle of great international exposure in which Brazil will find itself enveloped during the coming year, there should be a corresponding policy of openness to extend these links with the rest of the world. Brazil is a formidable force, but only time will tell if we can revamp the attributes and experiences cultivated over the last century. Nonetheless, we had more than 6.4 million visitors last year. 6.4 million is some 80% more than registered in 2003, meaning that Brazil is stronger than it ever has been before.