Four days here is too short a time to get the eyes used to the yellow that flooded the city on Thursday. On escalators at metro stations, hotel foyers, in taxis and in trains running under and over the ground the golden yellow that is the Brazil national team shirt was an overwhelming presence everywhere. Even eye liners were similarly colour-coordinated. And nail polish.
It is like this on the first day of every World Cup; the city is a riot of colours of the team shirts that start the competition. Only like sunrise, it is a sight you will never tire of. And with Brazil hosting the World Cup and playing the first match, the effect seemed million time more luminous. Men, women and child wore the Selecao shirt the five stars of Brazil’s five World Cup triumphs, a proud adornment. Perhaps too young to get a shirt his size, a toddler, perched on his grandmother’s lap, wore an elastic Brazil bandana over his tiny head. Nest to him, a girl slightly older wore the team short and waved a Brazil flag.
The first sight of the Arena do Sao Paulo had our train compartment from Luz break into an applause. Through the journey to Itaquera where the stadium is --- it is also called the Arena Corinthians because of then place’s strong connection with the football club which will own the venue after the World Cup --- passengers shouted ‘Brazil, Brazil’ the chant ending in a rhythmic clap reminiscent of the way a packed Camp Nou ends the Barcelona anthem.
Not all seats were taken by the time the opening ceremony started; white patches glistened in the mellow afternoon sun because the opening game was still almost two hours away. But all roads it seemed were leading to the stadium. And while you may have heard of a French kiss and French leave, one man was holding a placard promising a “French smile” in lieu of a ticket to an event that was sold out in minutes.
Of Pitbull, Shakira and the beautiful song
The 25-minute opening ceremony was an act in four parts. On a carpet that covered the pitch and with four massive drums in four corners, it celebrated Brazil’s nature, people and the one sport that is part of the cultural fabric of this country. There were men and women kicking balls tied on a string shifting it from one foot to another.
And it ended with Pitbull in a Brazil shirt, Claudia Leitte in a clingy blue dress with the Brazil flag and Jennifer Lopez in a green dress that revealed as much as it hid singing the World Cup anthem “We are one”. “Show the world where you're from/ Show the world we are one” was a theme in sync with the festival that has 32 participating teams but a following that extends to all corners of the globe.
Watch: Jennifer Lopez kicks off the 2014 World Cup in style