Sao Paulo: The greatest show on the earth, the Fifa World Cup carnival, began with a coruscating opening ceremony, which encapsulated the colour, culture and nature of Brazil, hosting the big football party first time since 1950.

The anti-tournament protests continued even hours before the ceremony but the din was lost when thousands of football lovers from across the world thronged the Corinthians Arena and watched the spectacle unfold with invigorating enthusiasm.

However, a few stands were still empty when the 30-minute ceremony began.

A giant LED ball, placed at the centre of the stadium, displayed the welcome message in different languages, and hundreds of artists started to trickle in.

Dressed as trees, plants and flowers, the artists represented the nature of the country with background music, which had no drum tunes as yet.

Then on show was the diversity of the Brazilian people, their dance and martial arts, developed by the slaves in the 16th century for self defence.

It was followed by what Brazil is synonymous with:, game of Football. Several people with football as headgear came in and kids dressed as referees came to the pitch and depicted conduct of a match.

Immediately after this, the Brazilian flag was paraded onto the pitch.

The giant ball opened and took the form of a flower.

Brazilian singer Claudinha surfaced from under it along with Pop icon Jennifer Lopez and rapper Pit Bull.

The trio sang the official World Cup song—We Are One (Ole Ola)—but it looked Jennifer’s mike did not work.

Also, the song could not be heard clearly and the ceremony, in which about 500 people showed the vibrant colours of Brazil, concluded in a jiffy without speech of any Fifa official.

Brazil launched the World Cup with an emotion-fuelled 3-1 victory over Croatia. Barcelona superstar Neymar scored in each half as Brazil recovered from conceding an early Marcelo own goal to set up a win before hordes of golden-shirted fans at the 61,600 Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.

Chelsea midfielder Oscar put the seal on the win with a late strike from distance to trigger delirium.

The host nation’s Group A victory was greeted by an explosion of fireworks across Sao Paulo.

Several anti-government protests have marred the build up to the tournament and police had to fire tear gas and rubber bullets to defuse a fresh protest near a Sao Paulo subway station, hours before the opening ceremony.

More protests are expected in the country over high cost of the staging the World Cup when more spending on health, education and subsidised transport is desired by people.

Not only the protests but also the delays in construction of stadiums had put the organisers on the edge. PTI

AFP also contributed to this story