11 décembre 2016 ~ 0 Commentaire

Brazil gets in the World Cup swing as protests quiet down

World Cup fever gathered steam across Brazil on Friday as fans streamed to a second day of matches and violent protests subsided, although a last-minute scramble to get some host cities ready kept organizers on edge. Brazil’s opening victory over Croatia unleashed celebrations late into Thursday night, with fireworks and car horns echoing for hours in major cities as fans got into the spirit of the first World Cup on Brazilian soil since 1950. Shopkeepers in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte on Friday cleaned up storefronts that they had boarded up for opening day, when protests against the costs and alleged corruption behind the tournament broke into scattered clashes with police. Most of Brazil’s 12 host cities saw anti-World Cup demonstrations ahead of the opener, drawing anywhere from dozens to more than 1,000 protesters, but the protests dropped off sharply early on Friday. About 100,000 police are patrolling host cities during the monthlong tournament. On Thursday, police responded with teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets against demonstrations in some cities. Amnesty International said police deserved a « yellow card » after they « brutally repressed peaceful protesters » in Sao Paulo on Thursday. Protest organizers in some cities are pledging marches later on Friday and over the weekend. Brazilians are still frustrated 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. President Dilma Rousseff was subjected to jeers and derisive chants at Brazil’s opening game, a clear sign of the continued frustration. But many fans also want protesters to let them enjoy 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. » LAST-MINUTE SCRAMBLE The first full-capacity game at Sao Paulo’s new World Cup venue went smoothly on Thursday except for minor hiccups. A partial outage of stadium floodlights and the late arrival of food at vending stalls did little to dampen the atmosphere. But questions still hung over the other cities hosting their first games on Friday. In the northeastern city of Natal, pouring rain, striking bus drivers and lingering safety questions about the stadium marked the run-up to the Mexico vs Cameroon match. Temporary new bleachers only cleared 90 percent of a safety check on Wednesday, officials told , and inspectors were barred from entering the stadium on Friday while world soccer body FIFA prepared for the match. As many as 100 fans were moved to alternative seating due to safety concerns about the new bleachers, a FIFA spokesman said. Mexico won the game 1-0. Natal also resorted to using school buses and vans to keep public transportation flowing after a bus drivers’ union voted to strike over a wage dispute. Making it more difficult, days of sunshine in Natal gave way to driving rain that flooded city streets and drenched fans in the Dunas arena. The downpour knocked out some of the stadium’s security scanners. Rain in Porto Alegre also interrupted construction around the World Cup arena, which remains a muddy work site just two days before hosting France vs Honduras. In Cuiaba, a dry heat cooked the dusty roads around the Pantanal arena, threatening a high near 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Workers were still scrambling on Friday morning to install air conditioning and carpets, just hours ahead of the Chile vs Australia match. Across the country, however, Brazilians’ famous hospitality and good cheer were already overwhelming the rocky preparations in the minds of visiting fans. « It has been amazing, people have been so nice to us, » said Alvaro Roman, one of thousands of Chileans who had flown or driven across the continent to see the game in Cuiaba. « Brazil is a magical place! » (Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Belo Horizonte, Michael Kahn in Natal, Steve Keating in Porto Alegre, Philip O’Connor in Recife, Mary Milliken in Cuiaba and Brian Winter in Sao Paulo; Editing by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray). Five storylines to follow during the 2014-15 National Basketball Association season: I’M COMING HOME: All seems in harmony again in the basketball universe as LeBron James returns home to gritty Cleveland and the Cavaliers after a four-year run with the Miami Heat that included two NBA crowns. Public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland after going on national TV in 2010 to say he was « taking my talents to South Beach, » James received a hero’s homecoming when he re-signed with the Cavs, ready to deliver the NBA title he failed to do during his first stint with the team. James’ return along with the arrival of All-Star Kevin Love through a blockbuster trade with Minnesota elevated Cleveland to championship contenders but will it be enough to bring Cleveland its first major championship title in any sport in 50 years? – - THE HEAT IS ON: The other two members of Miami’s ‘Big Three’ Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are back but a fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals will not be as easy without four-time league Most Valuable Player LeBron James leading the way. Without James, the expectations will not be quite as sky-high in Miami this season but with the addition of Luol Deng spoiled Heat fans will still expect to be in the title hunt. – - SMOOTH SAILING FOR CLIPPERS: After a tumultuous end to last season that saw vilified owner Donald Sterling forced to sell his Los Angeles Clippers following the release of a racist rant, the team will chart a new course with former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer at the ownership helm. The destination and crew, however, remain the same with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and savvy head coach Doc Rivers ready to steer the Clippers to a maiden trip to the NBA Finals. Forever known as the « other » Los Angeles-based NBA team and poorer cousins to the storied Lakers franchise, the Clippers could be poised to sail into the Hollywood spotlight. – - SINK OR SWIM FOR LAKERS: Once again Los Angeles Lakers hopes will rest on the aging and increasing fragile health of future Hall of Famer and former most valuable player Kobe Bryant. Bryant, the lynchpin of five championship teams, played six games last season while Steve Nash, a two-time MVP who played 15 games, will miss the entire season with back issues. Los Angeles added Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets and Carlos Boozer from the Chicago Bulls but the Lakers will only go as far as Bryant’s creaky legs can carry them or sink to the bottom of the Pacific division for a second straight year. – - INJURY TIME: Two of the NBA’s best players will begin the new season on the sidelines while another will make his return after a long injury layoff. Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, the reigning MVP, will miss at least the first month recovering from a fracture in his right foot while Indianapolis Pacers All-Star Paul George is likely to miss the entire season after he suffered a gruesome injury, breaking his leg playing for Team USA. But there was some good news for the Chicago Bulls with point guard and former MVP Derrick Rose back to full fitness after two substantial leg injuries. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Gene Cherry). A Northwestern University quarterback who is behind a push to unionize the school’s football team said on Thursday he is « very confident » that his teammates will vote on April 25 to join the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). Kain Colter, a senior at Northwestern, appeared on a panel and took questions in Washington, D.C., along with CAPA co-founder Ramogi Huma, a former University of California-Los Angeles football player who now advocates for student athletes. The two met earlier in the week with congressional lawmakers to talk about the Northwestern players’ novel effort to form what could be the first labor union for U.S. college athletes. « The hard part is over, » Colter said of the upcoming vote, noting most of his teammates had signed pledge cards, which triggered the election. « The key thing is these players aren’t voting for themselves … they’re voting for future generations, » he added. The drive that Colter and Huma are heading has triggered a national debate about college athletes and their treatment by schools and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), with some condemning the union effort and others praising it. It began late last month when a regional director with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said the Northwestern football players were effectively employees of the school and could therefore vote on whether to unionize. The players spend 40 to 50 hours a week during the regular season practicing, playing and traveling to games, and each get scholarships worth about $61,000 per year, the NLRB said. APPEAL DUE NEXT WEEK The school has said it will appeal the regional director’s decision before the full, five-member board in Washington, D.C. That appeal is due by April 9 and could convince the board to decide to postpone the vote. Speaking on a Wednesday panel hosted by the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan policy organization, Huma stressed that CAPA is not seeking salaries for college athletes. Improved safety protections, scholarships covering the full cost of attendance and ongoing medical coverage for sports-related injuries are priorities of the recently created labor group, he said. The lawmakers they met with were very supportive, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, Huma said. « He’ll do anything he can to help, » Huma said. ‘LIGHT BULB’ MOMENT Both Huma and Colter described the « light bulb » moment when they knew they wanted to work to improve conditions for college athletes. For Huma, it was when he was playing at UCLA in the mid-1990s. A teammate said on a radio program that he could not afford to buy food. When the teammate arrived home, there was a bag of groceries on his doorstep. The NCAA, which oversees college sports programs, suspended him for accepting a prohibited gift. At that point in the season, Huma himself had lost 10 pounds (4.5 kg), going from four to five meals a day while living with his parents to a three-meal-per-day meal plan at UCLA, he said. Colter, whose uncle and father played college sports, said he grew up aware of the challenges elite student athletes face. He was looking for a way to give students a voice, and contacted Huma. « I was given an opportunity to make a change, » Colter said. The NCAA has indicated it will throw its weight behind defending the idea that college athletes are students, not employees. The organization is facing multiple lawsuits challenging its rules and regulations that prohibit student players from receiving sports-linked revenue. « We do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college, » NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said in a statement late last month. (Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh).

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