Rio 2016: Protesters threaten to extinguish torch

Brazilians angry with the spiralling cost of the Olympic Games are venting their frustration on the iconic flame.

As the Olympic torch makes its way through the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro on the eve of the Games, there is reason to worry as to whether the famous flame will arrive at its destination safely.

On social media, Brazilians angered by the huge cost of hosting the Games have been urged to greet the Olympic torch not with cheers but with buckets of water to extinguish the flame before it reaches the opening ceremony to be held at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Football Stadium on Friday.

Rio 2016: Protesters run ‘torch of shame’ relay

On Thursday the torch will be carried to Rio’s iconic locations including Copacabana Beach, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Many Brazilians are struggling under a dire economy and have questioned the wisdom of hosting the Olympics, which the country won a bid to host in 2009 when the economy was booming.

In addition to the Games’ $12bn price tag, anti-torch protesters are calling for more accountability from elected officials after a massive corruption scandal focused on the state oil company ensnared dozens of high-level politicians.

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Rio de Janeiro, said police used pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a small but energetic group of demonstrators on Tuesday and Wednesday who tried to impede the flame’s journey at several points in the city.

A 10-year-old girl was reportedly injured after being struck by a police projectile during the protests.

And it is not just people on the street who are protesting.

One of the Olympic torch bearers, when it was his turn to take over the torch relay, bared his bottom to reveal a message: “OUT WITH TEMER”, Newman said.

The surprise message was aimed at Michel Temer, Brazil’s former vice president who is now the acting president while President Dilma Rousseff awaits the outcome of her impeachment trial.

Rousseff posted a video on Facebook calling on Brazilians to take to the streets to protest against her impeachment and demand that she be reinstated.

Our correspondent noted that although Rousseff was the president who secured the Olympics, she will not be going to the opening ceremony, saying that she feels “like Cinderella, forced to leave the ball early”.

A long journey

The flame, which was first lit in Greece in April, according to Olympic tradition, has made a long journey through 325 cities and towns in Brazil before arriving in Rio de Janeiro.

There were anti-torch protests in rural areas too. 

Several protesters harassed torch relay runners in Angra dos Reis last week on the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, even managing to extinguish the flame.

But some residents of Rio say they are eager to show the world their city is ready for the international spotlight and pleased they had largely delivered venues on time.

While the name of the final torch bearer for Friday’s opening ceremony is a closely guarded secret, Brazilian football legend Pele said he has been invited to light the Olympic cauldron.

Rio residents say what the Olympics mean to them

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies