Flame lands in troubled Brazil for 94-day relay to Games

Tue May 3, 2016 12:31pm EDT
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By Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) - President Dilma Rousseff lit the Olympic torch in Brazil's capital on Tuesday and pledged that political turmoil engulfing her nation would not harm the first Games to be held in South America.

The Olympic flame was flown into Brasilia on Tuesday to start a three-month relay through more than 300 towns and cities that will end with the opening of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro's Maracaná stadium on Aug. 5.

A smiling Rousseff waved to crowds as she lit a green cauldron with the Olympic flame on the ramp of Brasilia's modernistic Planalto presidential palace.

The president, who is facing impeachment proceedings, will likely be removed from office before the opening ceremony in Rio.

"Even though we are living through a truly critical period in our history and the history of our democracy, Brazil will know how to offer athletes and visitors the best welcome at the Olympics," she said.

Rousseff said the sports facilities in Rio and the security measures to protect athletes, tourists and visiting heads of state were ready.

Brazil has scrambled to prepare for its second global sports event in two years in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s and a massive corruption scandal that shook the political establishment and fueled demands for Rousseff's removal. Brazil is also fighting an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus that threatens to keep some athletes and tourists away from Rio.

The Olympic flame, burning inside four golden lamps, arrived in Brasilia aboard a LATAM Airlines jetliner that was escorted inside Brazil's airspace by two Brazilian Air Force F-5 fighters.   Continued...

Brazilian firefighter Haudson Alves abseils with the Olympic flame as he attends the Olympic Flame torch relay at Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino