Brazil police, protesters clash as World Cup begins
By Brian Winter and Marcelo Teixeira
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian police and protesters clashed on Thursday just hours before the opening game of the World Cup, injuring at least five people, although excitement began to build elsewhere as cheering, flag-waving fans converged on the stadium.
The tournament has been largely overshadowed so far by construction delays and months of political unrest with many Brazilians furious over $11 billion being spent to host the Cup in a country where hospitals and schools are often poor.
Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and noise bombs to disperse more than 100 demonstrators who gathered in eastern Sao Paulo, about six miles (10 km) away from the stadium where the opener between Brazil and Croatia is set to take place.
After protesters tried to cut off a main road to the stadium, at least five people were injured in clashes, a police spokesman said.
Photos circulated by a protest group showed a handful of protesters with injuries including bloody noses and what appeared to be wounds on their legs from rubber bullets.
About 1,000 protesters in Rio de Janeiro marched peacefully, though some burned Brazilian flags and carried signs saying "FIFA go home," in a reference to the world soccer body. There were smaller demonstrations in other host cities.
Elsewhere, though, including at the Corinthians arena where the opening game will start at 5 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), the somber mood that has permeated World Cup preparations in recent months showed signs of finally turning festive.
Fans at the stadium, most of them dressed in the canary yellow and green of Brazil's national team, chanted, sang and danced. In downtown Sao Paulo, crowds of Croatian fans were drinking beer by mid-morning. Continued...