Rousseff scraps torch-lighting trip to Greece

Fri Apr 8, 2016 1:57pm EDT
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By Karolos Grohmann

ATHENS (Reuters) - Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has canceled plans to attend the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia later this month, Greece's Olympic Committee (HOC) said on Friday.

Rousseff's office in Brasilia said her trip to Greece was never confirmed because it overlapped with two events she is due to attend at the United Nations on drugs and climate change.

Rousseff, facing an impeachment effort over a series of scandals and probes in Brazil, had been expected to attend the April 21 torch-lighting event along with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.

The ritual at the birthplace of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece traditionally marks the countdown to the world's biggest multi-sports event with the lighting of the torch and a torch relay.

"The President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff has canceled her presence at the event according to information provided to the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) by the embassy of Brazil," event organizers HOC said in a statement.

Rio will host the first Olympics in South American from Aug. 5-21, with their torch relay starting on May 3 in the capital Brasilia and ending in Rio on the day of the opening ceremony.

Preparations for the Games have been hit by the country's worst recession in decades, with organizers racing to save money through a series of last minute cost-cutting measures.

Ticket sales have lagged compared to previous Games, with less than half of them sold, according to data announced by organizers last month.   Continued...

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff talks during an inauguration ceremony of the Olympic aquatic venue at the 2016 Rio Olympics park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes