Brazil police, protesters clash as World Cup begins

Friday, 13 June 2014 02:08 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Brazilian police and protesters clashed on Thursday, hours before the opening game of the World Cup, which has been marred by construction delays and political unrest. Police fired noise bombs to disperse a crowd of about 200 demonstrators angry about government overspending on the event. The protesters were trying to cut off a key avenue leading to the Corinthians Arena where the soccer match will be played on the eastern edge of Sao Paulo, a Reuters witness said. At least one protester was arrested, local media reported. A producer for CNN was injured during the confrontation, witnesses said. The protests were expected to grow in size before Brazil’s team plays Croatia at 5 p.m. (2000 GMT). Much of the rest of Brazil’s biggest city and business capital resembled a ghost town during the usual morning rush hour after officials declared a partial holiday to ensure traffic to the stadium would be light. About 20 million people live in the metropolitan area. Stakes will be high not just on the soccer field. Whether the tournament goes smoothly may also have an effect on President Dilma Rousseff’s chances for re-election in October, as well as Brazil’s flagging reputation among investors. Many Brazilians are angry over the $11.3 billion spent on hosting the World Cup when basic social services are poorly financed. Their pessimism has so far overshadowed a brighter mood among the some 800,000 foreign tourists expected to come to Brazil for the event. Rousseff has dismissed complaints about the heavy spending and delays in preparing stadiums and airports, and is betting Brazil will put on a show on and off the field.

 Pope hopes World Cup will help global solidarity

Reuters: Pope Francis is hoping the World Cup, which kicks off in Brazil later on Thursday, will be played in a spirit of fraternity and fair play, and can overcome any form of racism or intolerance. In a video message in Portuguese to fans and organisers in Brazil, the Argentine pope said that sport was not only a form of entertainment but above all a means to promote a more just, fraternal and peaceful society. “My hope is that, besides being a sporting feast, the World Cup can become a feast of solidarity among peoples,” he said in the message. “Sport is a school of peace. It teaches us to build peace.” Francis said sport should “overcome individualism, egoism, all forms of racism, intolerance and exploitation of the human person.” As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pontiff was a keen supporter of the San Lorenzo soccer club.The pope is an honorary member of the club nicknamed the Saints of Boedo for the barrio where they were founded by a group of young men that included a priest in 1908.
  “What I’m seeing more and more is the welcome given to the teams and the happiness of the Brazilian people with our team,” she said in a speech on Wednesday. Brazil is widely considered the spiritual home of global soccer, and in recent days more of the flags and street parties that usually characterise World Cups here have begun to show up. Yet the list of possible problems is long. In fact, hosting a successful tournament may ultimately prove harder for Brazil than winning it. The main risk, for both fans and the Government, appears to be violent street demonstrations. Protests and labour strikes are planned in the 12 host cities, including a 24-hour slowdown by some airport workers in Rio de Janeiro, although the threat of a long subway strike in Sao Paulo has eased. About a dozen disgruntled airport workers blocked a road outside Rio’s international airport on Thursday morning, causing heavy traffic, local media reported. Some businesses in Rio, the venue for seven Cup games, including the final, had boarded up windows and doors by late on Wednesday in case protests erupted.