Brazil in the World Cup swing, but some cities still scrambling

Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:59am EDT
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By Brad Haynes

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - World Cup fever gathered steam across Brazil on Friday after the long-awaited opener went ahead without major hitches, although the lingering threat of violent protests and a late scramble in some host cities kept organizers on edge.

Brazil's opening victory over Croatia unleashed celebrations late into the night on Thursday, with fireworks and car horns echoing for hours in major cities while fans got into the spirit of the first World Cup on Brazilian soil since 1950.

Shopkeepers in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte cleaned up storefronts on Friday that they had boarded up for opening day, when several protests against the costs and alleged corruption behind the tournament broke into scattered clashes with police.

Brazilians are still unhappy about the $11 billion spent to host the Cup in a country with glaring inequalities that struggles to fund schools, hospitals and other basic services. But many are just as frustrated with protesters now trying to spoil the party.

"They won't stop us having our fun, especially when Brazil win!" said Pedro Ribeiro, 29, a businessman in Belo Horizonte who held a house party until the early hours to celebrate the 3-1 victory over Croatia.

"People have a right to complain. There are lots of problems in Brazil. But they don't have the right to be violent or to spoil the World Cup we've all been waiting so long for," Ribeiro said. "This party is only just beginning."


Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte performs on a platform during the 2014 World Cup opening ceremony at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker