time in Rio after rollercoaster run-up to the Games
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[August 05, 2016]
By Daniel Flynn and Mary Milliken
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - With a
little bit of chaos and a last-minute sprint on preparations, Rio de
Janeiro was ready on Friday to revel in a moment seven years in the
making: the opening of the Olympic Games.
At an evening ceremony in the famed Maracana soccer stadium, Brazil
will declare open the 31st Summer Olympic Games and the first ever
in South America. They will run until Aug. 21.
Organizers are hoping the start of the Games will erase months of
bad publicity for Rio - from polluted water to faulty plumbing at
the athletes village to worries about the Zika virus - all against
the backdrop of a brutal economic downturn.
Security challenges in the sprawling beachside city are at the
forefront of many people's mind, not only because of Rio's
decades-old reputation for violent street crime, but also after a
spate of deadly attacks at big and small celebrations from Europe to
the United States.
With many of the Games' 11,000 athletes and dozens of heads of state
in attendance, the first major test of preparedness comes at
Maracana, where the biggest security operation of the Games will be
Some 50,000 spectators are expected while more than 3 billion people
tune in around the world as Brazil hosts its second major sporting
event in two years, after the 2014 soccer World Cup.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Braulio Ferreira, 38, who
runs a small shop in the Jardim Botanico neighborhood, near the
lagoon where rowing and canoeing races will be held. “Like the World
Cup, it'll be great to throw a good party and mix with the people
from all over.”
Like many in Rio, however, Ferreira said citizens had not received
benefits like better transport and sanitation promised in the
Olympic bid: "It cost a lot of money, but I don’t see much of the
legacy that was promised.”
Brazil's political crisis could crash the party as interim President
Michel Temer opens the Games. In a bitterly divided country,
protesters are encouraging spectators to boo Temer, who took over
after the Senate voted to subject leftist President Dilma Rousseff
to an impeachment hearing this month.
Brazil won its bid for the Games back in 2009, when the economy was
booming and Rio's coffers swelled with royalties from its offshore
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Brazilian surfer Rico de Souza carries the Olympic torch as he surfs
at praia da Macumba (Macumba beach) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The economy is now on track for its worst recession in a century and
Rousseff is expected to be permanently ousted this month.
In what organizers have called a low-tech ceremony constrained by
the dire economy, Brazil will showcase its natural treasures and the
cultural riches created by one of the world's most diverse nations.
Samba, Carnival and the famously fun Brazilian spirit are expected
to play heavily into the three-hour ceremony, as will a call to save
the planet from climate change.
One of the most anticipated moments will be seeing which famous
Brazilian will light the Olympic cauldron. The odds-on favorite is
soccer legend Pele.
Spokesmen for Pele said he had received the green light from his
sponsors and doctor, but the 75-year-old was waiting to see if he
felt well enough.
Before the ceremony, the Olympic torch will travel to some of the
most well-known landmarks of the "marvelous city" - from the Christ
the Redeemer statue atop the lush green mountains to the striking
Pao de Acucar or Sugar Loaf rock formation on Guanabara Bay.
(Additional reporting by Jeb Blount, Caroline Stauffer and Raquel
Stenzel; Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Michael Perry)
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