Street clashes spoil start of World Cup party in Brazil
VIOLENCE and bloodshed marred the start of the World Cup last night after protesters and police clashed on the streets of Brazil in "unprecedented" scenes of disorder
Several people were injured as rubber bullets, tear gas and noise bombs were unleashed to quell civil unrest never before witnessed on the opening day of sport's biggest event.
In Sao Paulo, a CNN producer suffered a broken arm after being hit with a gas canister and another of its employees was also hurt, while an AP photographer was injured in the leg after a stun grenade exploded near him.
Protesters furious over the billions spent on staging the World Cup were wounded by rubber bullets and could be seen choking on tear gas as police sought to disperse around 300 of them and prevent them cutting off access to the venue for Brazil's match against Croatia.
"I'm totally against the cup," said Tameres Mota, a university student at the Sao Paulo demonstration. "We're in a country where the money doesn't go to the community, and meanwhile we see all these millions spent on stadiums."
Fellow student Gregory Leao said the demonstrators wanted to invade the Arena Corinthians, adding: "The objective is to put an end to the World Cup. We realise we're not going to achieve it, but we believe Brazilians should rise up. Brazilians love football but they don't need this right now."
Arrests were made and tear gas was also deployed against a similar number of demonstrators who marched in central Rio de Janeiro, some of whom burnt Brazilian flags and displayed slogans reading: "FIFA go home." There were also smaller demonstrations in other host cities.
The World Cup build-up has also been dogged by industrial action, which escalated in Rio yesterday when workers blocked the road leading to the city's international airport.
The protesting ground staff, who declared a 24-hour partial strike, invaded Avenida Vinte de Janeiro, completely closing it in one direction for around 10 minutes before military police intervened.
Veterans of previous World Cups said they could not recall such unhappy scenes at the start of an event which usually kicks off amid a carnival atmosphere in the host nation.
Protesters deliberately timed their marches to coincide with the moment the eyes of the world would be on Brazil, having done the same at last summer's Confederations Cup.
That tournament saw an estimated one million take to the streets to vent their anger against the government and FIFA over the €8.1bn it cost to bring the World Cup to one of football's spiritual homes.
Six police helicopters and hundreds of officers kept protesters at a safe distance from the Arena Corinthians, giving those lucky enough to obtain a ticket for yesterday's game licence to generate the kind of atmosphere associated with a World Cup. (© Daily Telegraph, London)