World Cup 2014: The big kick off ... Samba style
Published 13/06/2014 | 02:30
It was the ultimate carnival – a party so big that even mega star Jennifer Lopez couldn't turn it down.
The World Cup in Brazil got under way in the traditional fashion, with the serious business of football having to wait until after a glitzy ceremony of dance and song.
But while the world watched a gleeful celebration of Brazil hosting its first tournament since 1950, beneath the veneer police clashed with demonstrators in violent scenes.
Sao Paulo's Itaquerao Stadium had been filling since early afternoon ahead of the kick-off at 5pm local time. Jennifer Lopez, rapper Pitbull and Brazilian pop star Claudia Leitte leapt about a giant spherical stage singing 'We Are One' as the crowd gathered for the big kick-off.
Dancers dressed as trees and with footballs on their heads were some of the more left-field contributors to the spectacle.
The ceremony's centrepiece was a giant globe representing competing countries from around the world. The pitch was covered for the opening ceremony, which cost €6m, or about 18 million Brazilian reals.
But the cost of staging the tournament has caused deep divisions in a football-loving country that still grapples with extreme poverty.
Protesters and Brazilian police clashed in both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro just hours before the first World Cup match kicked off.
More than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main road leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo.
A few protesters suffered injuries after being hit by rubber bullets, while others were seen choking after inhaling tear gas.
Meanwhile, air travellers landing in Rio de Janeiro found a portion of airport workers striking for higher wages.
With the long wait finally over it was finally time for the footballers to take to the pitch and provide the memories that will be the real lasting legacy of Brazil 2014.
Irish football fans may have been 9,000km away but they were determined to get a slice of the action.
Dublin's streets were flecked with the same colours as Sao Paulo, as a noticeable contingent of Brazil and Croatia supporters gathered for the opener.
Rodrigo Goncalves, an English student from Sao Paulo, did not envisage a good World Cup for his side.
"For me, it is better to stay here and watch from a distance," he said.
"In Brazil, things are crazy. The transport is not working, people are protesting and it is not good," he added.
Croatian Ivan Ivic was relaxing in Temple Bar, having a quiet pint away from other supporters before kickoff. He was confident that his team will do well.
"The lads have prepared well and we have a chance to go on and play Spain or Holland in the second round," he predicted.