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World Cup stadium opens a day after protests

AP - Sports

SAO PAULO (AP) -- The latest stadium inaugurated for the World Cup in Brazil held its first two matches without major glitches on Sunday, a day after demonstrators across Brazil protested against the tournament.

The Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal sustained minor damage during protests. Demonstrators stayed away on Sunday and officials says the stadium passed its first test. Only minor adjustments will be needed going forward.

Work was being done until the final moments before the inaugural match, but the doubleheader between local clubs went on without problems in front of tens of thousands of fans.

Before the matches, local media reported that police arrested two men accused of firing shots at a group of rival fans a few kilometers from the stadium. No one was injured.

About 1,000 people protested in Sao Paulo and smaller demonstrations took place in several other cities on Saturday to complain about the costs of the World Cup. On its Facebook page, the Anonymous Rio protest group billed ''Operation Stop the World Cup'' as this year's first act against the football tournament.

The protests turned violent in Natal and in Sao Paulo, where demonstrators attacked an empty police vehicle, torched a small car and smashed the windows of banks. Authorities responded with tear gas and rubber bullets and detained more than 100 people.

In Natal, demonstrators went to the Arena das Dunas and destroyed some protective fencing and put fire on temporary tents outside of the stadium. Local media reported that security guards fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd. The Tribuna do Norte newspaper said 19 people were detained.

The Confederations Cup was marked by violent protests last year and more is expected during the World Cup next June.

The Arena das Dunas is the seventh World Cup stadium to be completed, with five yet to be finalized less than five months before the opener on June 12. Some are expected to be ready just a few months in advance, and there is still doubt over whether the southern city of Curitiba will remain a host city as it struggles to get its stadium ready.

Brazil had promised to hand over all 12 World Cup stadiums by the end of 2013. Six of them were ready for the Confederations Cup last year.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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