World Cup Fans Kick Back as Police Confront Brazil Marchers

World Cup fans flocked to beaches, bars and Sao Paulo’s stadium to watch the opening match while police clashed with protesters in the streets of several Brazilian cities.

Security forces in Sao Paulo used tear gas to disperse protesters who were wearing hoods and throwing stones as the city prepares to host the first game at 5 p.m., according to images shown on TV Globo. While similar clashes occurred in downtown Rio de Janeiro, people at nearby Copacabana beach crowded into the Fan Fest, a screening event sponsored by soccer’s governing body FIFA, sunbathing under cloudy skies and sipping caipirinhas, a Brazilian cocktail.

“There’s been protests but now that the game is starting, things will get better,” Jose Silva, a 58-year-old window washer wearing a Mohawk wig in the yellow and green of Brazil’s national flag, said in Sao Paulo. He doesn’t have a ticket for the game and bets his costume will convince guards to let him in to watch his team play Croatia.

Protest and celebration on the first day of the world’s most-watched sporting event mirror the mixed feelings that many soccer-loving Brazilians have toward the World Cup, preparations for which were marked by delays and cost overruns. Most Brazilians disapprove of hosting the Cup as it takes money from health care, education and other public services, according to a April 1-30 poll by the Pew Research Center.

Opening ceremonies started this afternoon at the stadium in Sao Paulo.

Waved Flags

Police said they have arrested at least five protesters today during demonstrations.

A few hundred people marched and waved flags in the vicinity of Arcos da Lapa, one Rio’s downtown landmarks, calling for more health care and education spending, according to images on TV Globo.

CNN reporter Shasta Darlington and producer Barbara Arvanitidis suffered minor injuries when they were hit by a tear gas canister as they covered the demonstrations in Sao Paulo, CNN reported on its website.

A flood of yellow jerseys wound its way from the Itaquera subway station to the stadium in Sao Paulo. Metro workers yesterday decided not to renew a strike that had shut down the station earlier in the week and snarled traffic in South America’s largest city.

Famous Beach

In Rio, tourists wearing t-shirts from nations including Germany and Argentina mingled with Brazilian fans at the Fan Fest as a warship guarded the country’s most famous beach.

President Dilma Rousseff had lunch with foreign dignitaries, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and heads of state from countries such as Uruguay, which beat Brazil to win the Cup when it last hosted the event in 1950.

While the mood on Rio’s streets has been a bit more subdued than he had expected, the experience has been great, said Bryan Chevin, a 38-year-old information technology security worker from New Mexico. “Everything is going smoothly so far.”

A street protest by striking ground workers caused some passengers to miss flights in Rio, O Globo reported on its website. Air traffic was unaffected by the walkout that was later called off, according to government-run airport management company Infraero.

In Brasilia, fireworks went off in the residential areas of the modernist capital as cars and passers-by displayed the country’s national colors.

Brazil will win the World Cup for a record-extending sixth time when Rio hosts the final game July 13, according to 171 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

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