BRASILIA, June 15 (Reuters) - Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters before the opening Confederations Cup match in Brazil on Saturday, leaving more than 30 people injured outside the stadium in an ugly start to the tournament.
The activists were protesting against what they see as excessive use of public funds for stadiums and sporting events instead of health and education programs, according to local television network GloboNews.
The demonstration appeared to be peaceful until protesters tried the block an entrance to the Mane Garrincha stadium where hosts Brazil were playing Japan.
Police reacted by firing rubber bullets and tear gas, some of which blew towards supporters who were on their way to the match, television pictures showed. Media photographs also showed some people with rubber bullet marks.
About 500 people took part in the protests according to the Brasilia Federal District’s security agency, which said 33 people were injured, including four policemen, and 22 were arrested.
Saturday’s protest followed several other demonstrations in several Brazilian cities this week.
They have added to a sense of growing unrest in Brazil at a time when inflation, crime and the popularity of President Dilma Rousseff, who was at Saturday’s game, have all taken a turn for the worse.
The Confederations Cup, an eight-team toournament, is considered a warm-up event for next year’s World Cup.
Preparations for both events have been plagued by delays and cost-overruns and there are worries that stadiums in cities such as Brasilia, Cuiaba and Manaus, which do not have top-flight soccer teams, will become white elephants. (Reporting by Jeferson Ribeiro; Additional reporting and writing by Asher Levine in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brian Homewood)