- Popstar Jennifer Lopez helped kick off celebrations at the Arena de Sao Paulo in Brazil for the World Cup opener
- Entertainers young and old performed to the crowd ahead of the first game of the tournament – Brazil v Croatia
- Planning for the grand opening ceremony started back in March and performers spent nearly 100 hours rehearsing
- Brazil went behind within the first 15 minutes of the opening match against Croatia after Marcelo scored an own goal
Thousands of fans turned out to the Arena de Sao Paulo in Brazil this evening as the opening ceremony of the World Cup got underway. Entertainers performed to the jubilant crowd as superstar Jennifer Lopez took to the stage to kick off the world’s biggest football tournament. The ceremony, which cost around £4.5million, was followed by the opening match of the month-long tournament – and hosts Brazil went behind within 15 minutes against Croatia after Marcelo scored an own goal.
The 30-minute show was choreographed by Brazil’s Paulo Barros and featured a variety of performers each dressed in random but colourful costumes. It began with children, dressed in the colours of the 32 nations, bouncing on trampolines as performers dressed as trees and flowers walked around the centre of the stadium. The colourful costumes were meant to represent the ‘nature phase’ of the show, which celebrated the rich diversity of Brazil.
Another ‘phase’ of the ceremony saw entertainers dressed as lifesize footballs and referees, as a nod to the start of the 2014 World Cup. All of the celebrations centred around a gigantic globe situated in the middle of the Corinthians Arena and performers – each dressed in an array of colourful outfits – danced in front of the excited crowd. The globe displayed all of the flags of the countries taking part in the 2014 World Cup and resembled the Brazuca – the official ball of the competition.
Superstar Jennifer Lopez, rapper Pitbull and Brazilian popstar Claudia Leitte headlined the show and bounced around the giant stage as they sang the official World Cup song ‘We Are One (Ola Ola)’. Miss Lopez wore a sparkling green sequin dress for the performance, which delighted fans following earlier reports she might not attend. The colourful extravaganza, watched by 68,000 fans in the stadium, saw Brazil celebrate the start of its first World Cup in 64 years.
The home fans – all in good spirits – cheered alongside small pockets of Croatians, who wore their team’s red and white jersey. However, the show did not go entirely to plan, with sound problems causing some technical difficulties.
Some complained Miss Lopez’s performance was barely audible and technical difficulties meant an echoing backup track reverberated around the arena. At one point, three doves were brought onto the stage to symbolise peace – but one of them apparently escaped, flew into the stage and died.
Although the event aimed to celebrate Brazilian culture, a nod to football only came two-thirds of the way through, with a group of acrobats wearing football headgear. They were joined by 63 boys and a girl from local football clubs. But other parts of the show left viewers bemused, including a sequence intended to represent a celebration of Amazonian nature. Young dancers dressed as raindrops and tulips darted across the stage, while a canoeist was carried through and others were dressed as trees, flowering buds and water lilies.
There were also criticisms on Twitter of a lack of performers spread across such a huge stage. Ben Davies posted: ‘Is this a dress rehearsal for the #openingceremony? Where is everyone?’ Another said: ‘I’ve seen more coherent performances in a GCSE Shakespeare showing.’ And Nick Daniels tweeted: ‘I have been to school plays more professional than this.’
Preparations for the opening ceremony, which fell on Brazil’s Valentine’s Day, started in March. There were nearly 100 hours of rehearsals, with some 20 hours of artistic work going into each minute of the ceremony. Organisers held a total of 31 auditions to choose the show’s performers and circus artists and army soldiers were among those selected. Each of the props used in the ceremony were specially designed with an even weight distribution so as not to cause any damage to the playing surface, which was covered for the opening celebration.
The ceremony was choreographed by Paulo Barros, a two-time winner of the samba school title at the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Nearly half the world’s population, well over three billion people, were expected to watch as the hosts took on Croatia in Sao Paulo tonight.