Rio Olympics open amid controversy and poverty

At the opening ceremony, Acting President Michel Temer was jeered for his role in President Dilma Roussef’s impeachment. Outside, protesters demanded “jobs, healthcare, education”. The first-ever Refugee team is present. Doping scandals involving Russia, China and other countries hover over the games.

Rio de Janeiro (AsiaNews) – The games of the 31st Olympiad, the first in South America, opened last night at 11 pm amid political, corruption and doping problems.

At least 78,000 people crowed the world-famous Maracanã Stadium to watch the opening ceremony, broadcast to an estimated audience of three billion.

In a video preceding the show, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the games "celebrate the best of humanity" and appealed for an Olympic truce, calling on "all warring parties to lay down their weapons" during the two weeks sporting event (5-21 August).

However, as soon as Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer declared the Games open, the country’s problems came to the fore. Jeering and catcalls against him filled the stadium. Temer is one of those responsible for forcing President Dilma Rousseff to step aside because of charges of corruption.

As a result of the turmoil at the top of government, many Olympic venues have not been completed. Delays and unfinished works, not to mention the country’s economic crisis, have also contributed to fears about the Zika virus. 

This year’s Games cost 12 times less than those of London in 2012 and 20 times less than those of Beijing in 2008. In any case, Olympic spending and corruption in Brazil and the International Olympic Committee have underscored the country’s widespread poverty.

Outside the stadium, thousands of demonstrators shouted "Out with Michel Temer!" and "Who cares about the Games; we want to work, healthcare and education."

The ceremony went ahead anyway with dancing, light, music and fireworks. Starting with images of micro-organisms dividing, the ceremony went on to highlight the contributions made by the nation's indigenous peoples, Portuguese explorers, African slaves and Japanese immigrants to Brazil's multicultural history and culture.

Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lit the Olympic flame. Next to the host nation’s team, the first-ever ten-member Refugee Olympic Team received the biggest applause. Its athletes are displaced people from Syria, South Sudan, Congo and Ethiopia.

Brazilian two-time Olympic champion sailor Robert Scheidt took the Olympic Oath, pledging on behalf of 11,000 athletes present not to take drugs, but given doping scandals involving Russia, China and other countries in previous editions, his words sounded unconvincing.