SAO PAULO (AP) — The World Cup managed to end Sao Paulo's seemingly endless traffic jam — at least for a few hours. All it took was for Brazil to play in the tournament opener.
Few cars were on the streets two hours before the host Selecao faced Croatia on Thursday at the Itaquerao, the newly opened stadium on the eastern edge of the city built for the Corinthians club team. There was only a fraction of the usual pedestrian traffic.
Officials declared Thursday a holiday in Sao Paulo. Some shops were shut, with gates pulled partially or completely down.
Still, there were some people walking around the Paulista district downtown and a few sitting in cafes, which had televisions on tuned to pregame shows. A majority of those out wore yellow Brazilian home jerseys or blue road shirts.
— By Ronald Blum — www.twitter.com/ronaldblum
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Most Brazilians apparently avoided travel on game day so as not to risk missing the opening match.
Rio's normally bustling Santos Dumont domestic airport was eerily calm Thursday, and there was hardly a customer to be seen in the FIFA store. Even the World Cup-themed Fun Zone, which has table soccer pitches, large screen TVs and benches for fans to rest, was nearly empty. Only employees were taking advantage of the table soccer facilities.
— By Jenny Barchfield — twitter.com/JennyBarchfield
SANTO ANDRE, Brazil (AP) — Heavy security around the German camp on the Atlantic coast is causing some friction among the local population.
The Germans are based in a specially built complex next to the village of Santo Andre, near Porto Seguro. The base is being protected by Brazilian military police, along with personnel brought from Germany. When the German team travels by bus to its fully equipped (including floodlights) training ground — built on a nature protected area — police close the main road and security officers in cars and on motorcycles follow the convoy.
Fences and security barriers are disrupting normal life and closing down streets in the village of 800. Residents have protested and German team officials say they are in contact with local authorities to ease the situation.
German team manager Oliver Bierhoff, who is responsible for logistics, says security decisions are made by local organizers, not by the German team.
"It's not our responsibility but we are in contact with security forces. As far as we know, not everything is optimal," Bierhoff said.
The German ambassador to Brazil, Wilfried Grolig, who visited the team this week, said he would meet with the mayor of Santo Andre to discuss the situation.
— By Nesha Starcevic
DUNGA ON NEYMAR
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former Brazil coach Dunga, who was captain of the country's victorious team in the 1994 World Cup, says Neymar must deliver for Brazil to win its sixth title.
"I feel just like everyone else, that Neymar must be more than just a promise," he said. "He can't be a promise. He must be reality in order for us to win the World Cup."
He said Neymar will get more space to play in the World Cup than he had at Barcelona.
"His best thing is his dribbling, which he can't show off at Barcelona," he said. "On the national team he is allowed to show more."
— By Stephen Wade — Twitter http//twitter.com/StephenWadeAP
WISHES FROM SPACE
BERLIN (AP) — The six-member crew on the International Space Station may be busy conducting scientific experiments out there on the final frontier. Even astronauts will be taking some downtime to watch the action in Brazil.
In a video message (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLwW3pdXkFo) from orbit, German crew member Alexander Gerst wished all teams and fans in Brazil "peaceful games."
"Have fun, play hard, and we'll be watching on the International Space Station," his American colleague Reid Wiseman added.
Gerst, Wiseman and station commander Steve Swanson of NASA also showed off their football skills in low gravity, displaying some impressive feats in the video that players down on Earth might be envious of.
Along with the German and two Americans, there are three Russians on the space station right now: All their countries are represented at the World Cup.
A bit closer to Earth, at least three airlines will be offering travelers the chance to get live in-flight updates from the World Cup to their mobile devices.
Emirates, Japan's ANA and Philippine Airlines will give passengers free access to a Wi-Fi service that provides text updates of every match direct to laptops, tablets and smartphones.
— By Frank Jordans — Twitter: http://twitter.com/wirereporter
PROTESTERS FANS TOO
SAO PAULO (AP) — Altino Prazeres leads the union that has recently presented the strongest challenge to a smooth World Cup.
That doesn't mean he's not a football fan.
"Yes, I plan to watch it on TV," he said late Wednesday.
After hundreds of subway workers voted not to go on strike, Prazeres, the union's president, told reporters he never meant to disrupt the game. He and fellow members actually love the sport.
Prazeres said he wants to show that unionized workers are very critical of how much the government has spent on stadiums when the country is still in dire need of improvements in public services. They will demonstrate along with other unions in a working-class neighborhood away from the stadium.
"We want to participate in peaceful protests so people who come to Brazil can see there aren't only people watching the games, there are people fighting for their rights," he said.
In separate protests Thursday, more than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main highway leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo where the opener will be played. Some in the crowd tried to block traffic, but police repeatedly pushed them back, firing canisters of tear gas and using stun grenades.
— Adriana Gomez Licon — www.twitter.com/agomezlicon
SAO PAULO (AP) — Thursday is a holiday in Sao Paulo: Everybody is off to celebrate the start of the World Cup.
Many people were out on the streets early, some singing and chanting in support of Brazil. Fans dressed in yellow and green greeted each other, often yelling, "Vai Brazil!" The nation's flag was draped from buildings, homes, cars.
There were some Croatia supporters roaming around the city, too, and many of them were mingling with the Brazilians in Avenida Paulista, the city's main avenue, before heading to Itaquerao Stadium.
— By Tales Azzoni -- twitter.com/tazzoni
Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. Follow AP journalists covering the World Cup on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_Sports/world-cup-2014