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Volume 24 No. 117
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As FIFA World Cup Kicks Off, Brazilians Follow Through On Pre-Tournament Protest Threats

Protests took place Thursday in "at least three cities, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, to mark the opening match" of the FIFA World Cup, according to a front-page piece by Maese & Phillips of the WASHINGTON POST. Some protests "resulted in road closures and arrests, and in some areas police used tear gas to disperse protesters." Anger "was evident" at Itaquerao Stadium -- which hosted the opening Brazil-Croatia match -- as well, "directed at both FIFA ... and the Brazilian government" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/13). In N.Y., Simon Romero notes fans inside Itaquerao Stadium "made obscene jeers against both President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA ... reflecting anxieties and discontents of an economic slowdown, spending on lavish stadiums and reports of corruption involving FIFA itself." Small protests also "erupted on the streets of several major Brazilian cities hours before the opening of the tournament." While a festive mood "certainly did emerge on Thursday in many parts of the country, the intensity of the crackdown by the police seemed to stun protesters in Sao Paulo, who numbered into the hundreds and were largely voicing opposition to the cost" of the event. Several protesters and journalists "were injured in the tumult," including CNN producer Barbara Arvanitidis (N.Y. TIMES, 6/13). In London, Ben Rumsby notes workers Thursday "blocked the road leading" to the Rio de Janeiro airport. The protesting ground staff, who "declared a 24-hour partial strike," completely closed the street "in one direction for around 10 minutes before military police intervened." Veterans of previous World Cups said that they "could not recall such unhappy scenes at the start of an event" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/13).

MIXED MESSAGES: In London, James Ducker writes Brazil "is unsure how it should feel about this World Cup, uncertain about how an outpouring of patriotism might be received when there are so many groups appalled that the country has committed" significant funds for the tournament "when schools, hospitals and public transport go neglected" (LONDON TIMES, 6/13). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes Brazil "appeared even less prepared than its nervous national team." Protests "raged a few miles away" from Itaquerao Stadium, where banks of lights "flickered" during the game. It was a "day of very mixed messages" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/13). But the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Lyons & Jelmayer report as kickoff time approached on Thursday, many Brazilians "appeared to feel that they might as well enjoy the tournament even if they don't approve of how it was organized" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/13). Meanwhile, REUTERS' Paulo Prada reported despite worries "over traffic and the Sao Paulo stadium, which was completed six months late and wasn't fully tested before the game, there were no reports of major logistical [issues] before or after the game." Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari after the game "praised the stadium as 'incredible' and 'fantastic'" (REUTERS, 6/12).

: In Miami, Mimi Whitefield notes Brazilians "seem to like" Fuleco, the official '14 World Cup mascot, whose name "derives from a blending of the Portuguese words for futebol (soccer) and ecologia (ecology)." FIFA said that he "scored a 7.3 out of 10 on appeal and his association with sustainability and the environment is a message that resonates with Brazilian fans" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/13).