Olympic Games Rio 2016 Open To Protests As Brazilians Clash With Police

No matter what the medal count or who takes the podium at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, many Brazilians feel they’ve already lost as thousands have taken to the streets to protest. Police broke up a demonstration Friday on the eve of the opening ceremonies as Brazil’s activists continue their year-long fight against corruption and economic instability.

Olympic Games 2016 Opening Ceremony – The Protests

It’s not only the streets where Brazilians can be found protesting the Olympic Games. At yesterday’s opening ceremonies at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, officials shook up the usual protocol to try and avoid trouble. The president of the host country is usually introduced just before the ceremony begins. This year, Brazil’s unpopular Interim President Michel Temer didn’t take the stage until the end of the show – and he was loudly booed according to a Forbes report.

According to Forbes, it was Temer himself who asked for the change in ceremony protocol. Shouts of “Fora, Temer!” or “Out, Temer!” have been a regular feature on Rio’s streets. Brazil is in the middle of an economic and political crisis. Former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted from office with a possible impeachment looming in the future amid charges of fiscal wrongdoing. Since becoming interim president, Temer has become the focal point of Brazilians’ anger.

As reported in the Independent, earlier on Friday, there were protests on Copacabana Beach, about a half a mile away from the Maracanã Stadium. The protesters, who numbered in the thousands, called it the “Exclusion Games” demonstration.

Along with political uncertainty, protesters question the huge costs associated with hosting the Olympic Games as Brazil grapples with a massive economic recession, along with public health and safety issues. Police responded with tear gas and pepper spray as the crowd – which included children – burned a flag in Alfonso Pena Square. There were unconfirmed reports of injured protesters and flash grenades. After the clash with police, the protesters dispersed.

Olympic Games Rio 2016 – A History Of Protests

As reported by the BBC, the arrival of the Olympic torch in Rio on Thursday was also greeted with protesters that numbered in the hundreds. The protest degenerated into chaos as riot police arrived with pepper spray and tear gas. According to images of the scene, police fired directly into the crowd and spectators who had arrived to watch the torch relay ran away in fear. Police justified their actions by saying that some of the protesters had been blocking the street at one area. Part of Tuesday’s torch relay in nearby Niteroi had to be cut short and three demonstrators were arrested in similar protests there.

While their presence has been notable in terms of breaking up demonstrators, the police themselves have staged protests. As reported in the Independent, at the end of June, Brazil’s police forces greeted travelers arriving at the airport with a sign that read “Welcome to Hell.” They were protesting unpaid wages and run-down working conditions that include no paper for printers, stations that aren’t cleaned, and police cars with no gas in them.

A Year Of Unrest In Brazil

The Olympic Games controversy has been brewing for some time in Brazil, alongside the other issues that have led to civil unrest. The wave of protests began a year ago when more than 250,000 Brazilians participated in what has become a national movement against the government.

As noted in a CNBC report, today’s turmoil comes in contrast to the stable, fast growing economic conditions and seemingly bright future that Brazilians were expecting when the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio back in 2010.

According to the BBC, more than a million tickets are still left to be sold and Rio organizers don’t expect that Friday’s protests will be the last at these 2016 Olympic Games.

[Image by Chris McGrath/Getty Images]