Brazil police, military take to the field for World Cup

Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:28am EDT
 
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A crowd of about 200 soccer fans awaited the Dutch national team on Monday outside its temporary home at the Caesar Park hotel, a 23-story tower along Rio de Janeiro's spectacular beachfront.

But their orange jerseys, placards and party hats weren't the only thing odd at an entrance normally frequented by business executives and high-end tourists.

How about the 18 Brazilian soldiers, in helmets and flak jackets, wielding clubs, stun guns, pistols, and rifles? Or the helicopter patrolling above the famous Ipanema beach and the Navy patrol boat cutting through white-cap waves just offshore?

"Whoa!" said Bjorn Koerselman, a 42-year-old Dutch airline executive. "They are really taking security seriously."

In a country that has long wobbled between order and chaos, that's exactly the sort of reaction leaders hope to elicit during the World Cup soccer tournament that kicks off on Thursday in Sao Paulo and proceeds across 11 other Brazilian cities for the following month.

After years of construction delays, alleged corruption, infrastructure shortfalls and bickering with FIFA, soccer's governing body, Brazil hopes the Cup at the very least will be safe for the 2 million people expected to travel to games, outdoor viewings and other related spectacles.

Around 100,000 police officers are patrolling host cities, and President Dilma Rousseff has deployed 57,000 soldiers, sailors and other troops, coordinated jointly at command centers in each host city, in what is the largest mobilization by Brazilian forces in recent history.

The government is investing about $850 million in overall security, which covers everything from protecting the 32 teams to containing possible street protests against the World Cup to airspace surveillance, be it with radar and air traffic systems or the constant flights of helicopters now buzzing host cities.   Continued...

 
Police stand guard as anti-FIFA World Cup demonstrators take part in a march at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro June 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva