By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Friday sees the opening game of the South Africa World Cup 2010, thirty-two nations battling it out for the ultimate prize in international soccer. With Brazil among the favorites to lift the trophy once more, and the streets of Rio filling with yellow, green and blue decorations, an important question remains; where to watch the games?

Under construction: The FIFA Fan Fest stadium on Copacabana Beach should be ready in time for Friday's opening game, photo by Doug Gray.

FIFA itself has taken the initiative, with seven cities across the world erecting enormous temporary structures with huge screens showing every game as part of FIFA Fan Fest. Alongside London, Paris, Sydney, Berlin, Rome and Mexico City, Copacabana Beach will be the site of Rio’s fifty meter-square screen, with a seating capacity of 20,000, a stage for live music, and a host of restaurants and bars to keep people occupied between matches.

Although the arena will be free and open for all cup games one hour before kick-off, the plan is to turn the huge screen 180 degrees so it can be seen along the sand by up to 100,000 people when Brazil plays, with the first match scheduled for June 15th, at 3PM.

Elsewhere in Rio the city is certainly not short of options, and every bar and restaurant with a screen is guaranteed to be crowded. The Cobal in Humaitá is always a center-point for live sports, where the parking lot becomes one large seating area and the big screen in Espírito do Chopp is supplemented by smaller ones in the surrounding restaurants.

The Cobal do Leblon, meanwhile, offers a similar set up but with an enormous screen and fully covered seating area, making it one of the best places in the neighborhood to convene, especially with a large group.

For an even livelier occasion, Circo Voador will be showing all the Brazil games on a huge screen, with Orquestra Voadora providing the live entertainment after the game to keep the party atmosphere alive. Simply visit the website to register for your free entry.

Across the city, residents have been hanging strips of yellow and green plastic and painting the streets in preparation for Brazil's first game on June 15th, photo by Doug Gray.

Besides Copacabana, the biggest concentration of fans for Brazil matches is traditionally the Alzirão – along Rua Alzira Brandão in Tijuca – where up to 40,000 fans are expected to gather. From its humble beginnings as just a street-side TV between friends in 1978 to the installation of a big screen for the first time in 1990, it is now one of the most popular locations for Cariocas to follow their beloved team. After some uncertainty about licenses, this year it looks as though everything is in place for another dose of World Cup fever, and festivities are completed with DJs and live music after the games.

For an innovative new way to watch the games, an agreement between FIFA, O Globo and Cinemark has been reached for the cinema chain to show all the Brazil games in 3D. The final and the third-place play-off will also be shown in 3D regardless of Brazil’s participation, offering a unique alternative for the World Cup devotee.

As well as these major concentrations of fans it is guaranteed that the city will grind to a standstill during every Brazil game and every bar in the city will have a lively throng camped around the television. Meanwhile, for people who really don’t like soccer and need to escape it at all cost, simply walking the streets of the normally-crowded Centro along a deserted Avenida Rio Branco in mid-afternoon provides an altogether different view of World Cup fever.


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