Lines, security scares mark shambolic start to Rio Games

Sun Aug 7, 2016 5:53am EDT
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By Karolos Grohmann and Brad Brooks

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The Rio Olympic Games got off to a shambolic and nervous start on Saturday, with organizers apologizing to angry fans kept waiting for hours at security checkpoints to enter venues while, outside, shootings and bomb scares kept visitors on edge.

Athletes competed in front of empty stands early on the first day of full competition as spectators complained of missing their events while queueing for security clearance.

The morning after a dazzling opening ceremony, organizers admitted to dropping the ball, with only a few hundred spectators making their way into venues such as the gymnastics arena and the beach volleyball on iconic Copacabana beach.

Outside, lines stretched for several blocks as fans stood in full sun and security staff struggled. Organizers blamed a lack of coordination between security personnel, including the police, Games staff and private security firms.

Gymnasts performed in front of swathes of empty seats in an arena that can seat 13,500 people. The boxing venue also had many empty seats as the first professionals in Olympics history entered the ring.

"I don't believe it. It's absurd, ridiculous," said Rio resident Natalia Carvalho, 28, who missed seeing Brazilian gymnast and medal hopeful Arthur Zanetti compete on the rings as she waited with thousands of others to enter the Olympic park.

"It's a lack of respect for the fan that bought tickets. It's a shame," she said.

What should have been a celebration of the start of South America's first Olympics turned into a damage-control operation, with Games spokesman Mario Andrada vowing an immediate improvement.   Continued...

An agent of the bomb squad in protective clothing stands in the area near the finishing line of the men's cycling road race at the 2016 Rio Olympics after they made a controlled explosion, in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 6, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hanna