SEOUL, South Korea – The planet's most popular sporting event, the World Cup soccer tournament, opened in Asia for the first time Friday with pomp, circumstance — and one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
Senegal defeated defending champion France 1-0 on the soil of co-host South Korea. Senegal, a former French colony making its first appearance in soccer's showcase event, defeated its former conquerer on a goal by Papa Bouba Diop.
Starting seven of the 11 players who opened its stirring victory in the 1998 World Cup final, France looked slow and old on a cool, damp night at Seoul World Cup Stadium. Les Bleus missed the creativity of injured playmaker Zinedine Zidane, the hero of its victory four years ago, who has a torn thigh muscle.
Fireworks shot in the air at the stadium after South Korean President Kim Dae-jung declared the tournament open at 7:44 p.m., after speeches by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of co-host Japan and newly re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
"As the representative of the Japanese people, I join South Korea's President Kim Dae-jung in giving my heartfelt welcome to the people from all over the world," Koizumi said to the crowd.
In a mixing of tradition and high tech, a circle of yellow-clad dancers formed in the center of the field, then gave way to women in pale green dresses who performed a Korean royal court dance. On a second stage, futuristic silver dancers were surrounded by creatures with TV sets for heads.
The entire field was then swathed in white sheets, from below which rose a bell as high as a house. Screens on the bell showed scenes of suffering and poverty from around the world.
The tournament, which brings teams from 32 countries to stadiums in Japan and South Korea, is being held under extraordinary security following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Anti-aircraft missiles and F-16 fighter jets were protecting the skies above stadiums. Thousands of soldiers, snipers, bio-terror and bomb disposal experts and anti-hooligan units were on the ground.
There was action off the field even before the opening ceremony in Seoul: FIFA president Blatter succeeded Friday in removing his most dangerous critic from soccer's governing body and having legal action against him withdrawn by members of his executive committee who had accused him of corruption. Blatter was jeered by some in Friday's crowd.
Michel Zen-Ruffinen, who accused Blatter of financial mismanagement and steering FIFA toward bankruptcy, agreed to quit as FIFA general-secretary on July 4 after attending a closed executive committee meeting in Seoul. Blatter was re-elected for a second four-year presidential term Wednesday.
In both South Korea and Japan, security forces were on alert for soccer hooligans. A British Embassy official said Friday that 16 Britons had been refused entry into Japan as authorities clamped down on suspected troublemakers.
It was unclear whether all 16 were singled out as potential hooligans. But embassy spokeswoman Sue Kinoshita said eight were turned back based on information provided by British police indicating a history of riotous behavior.
European authorities have drafted a list of about 200 people who have been charged with violence at soccer games in Europe, and British police are lending their expertise to Japan.
South Korea has been buzzing with excitement for weeks.
Paper lanterns shaped like soccer balls were strung along Seoul's eight-lane avenues. Thousands gathered in the streets to watch exhibition games on giant TV screens strapped to skyscrapers. Laser images of soccer action lit up ancient palaces at night.
Streets in the nation of 47 million have been cleaned, sidewalks repaired, beggars shooed away, flowers planted in plazas and traffic jams cleared up.
"The Korean people are joining forces to make this World Cup a milestone on their road toward becoming a great and prosperous nation," President Kim Dae-jung said Thursday.
Millions of Koreans live across the world's most heavily fortified border in communist North Korea, and several members of the American squad visited the frontier Friday, paying tribute to the U.S. soldiers who guard it.
"You forget how much people do for our country," said 20-year-old DaMarcus Beasley, the youngest U.S. player, visiting the edge of the demilitarized zone with 10 teammates, coach Bruce Arena and his staff. "This is a way of seeing what they do day in and day out."
The United States opens Wednesday against Portugal, a title contender whose star player, Luis Figo, is featured on subway posters around Seoul along with France's Zinedine Zidane and Brazil's Ronaldo.
The American team, hoping to improve on its last-place finish in France in 1998, will play a first-round game against South Korea, which has never won a game in five previous World Cups.
Despite the military presence and thousands of soccer fans pouring into the country, it was hard to find Koreans in downtown Seoul opposed to the tournament.
"We're proud and honored to host the World Cup," Lim Bu-soo said. "It's a global world now, but probably a lot of people far away didn't even know we existed."
The capital was bubbling again, as it did in 1988 when the Summer Olympics highlighted the country's development after it emerged from decades of military dictatorship.
Snags with ticketing have brought some tension to the preparations, however, and South Korean unions have threatened protests and strikes during the World Cup to demand wage hikes and improved working conditions.