Protesters attack Olympic Games, as violence worsens

  • 05/08/2016
Rio protests (AAP)
Rio protests (AAP)

Protesters will march through the centre of Rio under the banner of 'The Exclusion Games' on the eve of Friday's Olympic opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.

More than 80 social and community groups have united to voice their anger over the billions of dollars spent on hosting the sporting extravaganza.

The protesters say the Olympics have created a segregated city where youths are killed, transport networks have collapsed and the government can't afford to pay its workers.

Protests marred the arrival of the Olympic flame in Rio on Wednesday with police using tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to clear the way for the relay, while 450 heavily armed police battled drug traffickers.

Armed soldiers stood patrol on highways and on many corners throughout the iconic beach city in Brazil's largest security operation.

Police said anti-government protesters in Duque de Caixas, on Rio's north side, threw rocks and blocked the torch's path.

A video of the incident spurred social media criticism of the police and amplified complaints that the Games ignored the poor.

Three people were injured by rubber bullets, including a 10-year-old girl, local media reported.

The clash, which came a day after anti-torch protests in nearby towns and amid several days of gang violence in northern Brazil, underscored social tension in the massive country.

The world's largest sporting event comes to Brazil at a challenging time, in the midst of the country's worst recession in at least a quarter century and an impeachment trial of a suspended president.

Many residents struggling with the dire economy question the wisdom of hosting the Olympics, a bid Brazil won in 2009 while the economy was booming.

Residents have faced hours of traffic jams in recent days as new express bus lanes ferrying athletes and visitors to sport venues take up highway space, leading Mayor Eduardo Paes to declare Thursday the fourth city holiday of the Games.

Mr Paes defended the cost of the Games, saying more than half had come from the private sector.

He told a media conference on Thursday the city would be a better place for all its residents as a result of hosting the Olympics.

"We are proud of what we've built," he said.

The executive producer of the opening ceremony Mario Balich said everyone appreciated that Brazil still had problems, but he hoped the "spirit of the Olympics" would prevail.

He said even during the most serious of protests Brazilians still managed to keep a smile on their faces.

"And that, in a way, is a good way to protest," Mr Balich said.

NZN/AAP