Four jolly giants--an African, American Indian, an Asian and a European--strode through Paris like good-guy Godzillas on Tuesday, symbolizing the spirit of a World Cup that France hopes will loom large in history.
Blaring ethno-techno music and escorted by 4,500 costumed extras, the 60-foot robots took separate routes toward the Place de la Concorde, the heart of a citywide kickoff party for the soccer tournament.
"We want to show that soccer is accessible to everyone and belongs to no one," said Jean-Pascal Levy-Trumet, who designed the "Fete du Football" show. "The grand theme is universality in a single world."
As crowds watched the pageant end, however, hundreds of drunken soccer fans hurled bottles at police on the Champs Elysees, provoking an angry response from riot troops.
The fans fled, chased by police firing tear gas. Police gave an early count of 15 policemen slightly injured by the bottle-throwing and about a dozen people arrested.
Parisians woke up Tuesday to find the giants at familiar monuments, along with throngs of strangely dressed tourists from the 31 nations joining France in the planet's biggest sports tournament.
The 38-ton giants were powered by small trucks hidden in their feet.
As dark fell, the four giants met at the Concorde around the famed Obelisk from ancient Egypt, which had been transformed into a towering replica of the World Cup, topped by video screens.
The vast plaza was jammed with fascinated Frenchmen and soccer tourists. But at the edge, a cluster of Scottish fans, already staggering drunk, hardly seemed to notice the show.