By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the 2014 World Cup officially began in São Paulo on Thursday, June 12th, approximately 20,000 fans in Rio de Janeiro filled the FIFA Fan Fest area, located on the sands of Copacabana Beach, to watch the opening ceremony and first match between Croatia and hosts Brazil.
The crowd at the FIFA Fan Fest began lining up early in the afternoon in a festive spirit of yellow and green, overwhelming the gated entrance planned for the event. Fans became more excited in leading up to and during the opening ceremony, which featured a performance by Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte of the official 2014 World Cup song, “We Are One(Ole Ola).”
The crowd remained animated through the beginning of the game until Croatia scored the first goal of the tournament, sending the spectators into silence. When Neymar scored, tying things up in the first half, the crowd began to come alive and when he scored again in the second half, there were celebrations. The third and final Brazilian goal, kicked in by Oscar, sealed victory for Brazil and made the crowd go wild.
“I was watching the game at home,” waitress and Copacabana resident Maria Auxiliadora da Costa told Agência Brasil, “but then I came here to enjoy the show and to celebrate Brazil’s victory.” Reportedly fans were still entering the Fan Fest area after the match ended and thousands more remained in the area, watching the live performance of pagode band, Sorriso Maroto.
During the game, a group of protesters also assembled outside the designated Fan Fest area. They remained blocked from the festivities by security forces. Inside the area no violence or major problems were reported, although one source told The Rio Times the crowd was so large and chaotic it felt as though “there was a million people there.”
All 64 matches of the World Cup, including the final match in Rio de Janeiro on July 13th, will be shown live, with the exception of simultaneous games. In those cases, one match will be broadcast later. Entry to the FIFA Fan Fest is free and entrance to the area is granted according to arrival.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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