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Protesters in Brazil halt Olympic torch relay and extinguish its flame

Protests have continued to roil the lead-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics, with the opening ceremony just over a week away. On Wednesday night, government employees angry over delayed salary payments took to the streets in Angra dos Reis, a city ne...

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One athlete relays the Olympic torch to another in the streets of Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, ten days before the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio

Protests have continued to roil the lead-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics, with the opening ceremony just over a week away. On Wednesday night, government employees angry over delayed salary payments took to the streets in Angra dos Reis, a city near Rio de Janeiro, and confronted the procession carrying one of the Olympic torches.

Chaotic scenes caught on amateur video show a crowd of young people appearing to steal the torch from the procession and then extinguish it. Local news reports said that the Brazilian military eventually disbanded the protests using tear gas and rubber bullets, and in return were showered with rocks and bricks by the crowd. One child was reportedly injured. The torch relay was temporarily halted.

Outpourings of anger have plagued Brazil, which is about to welcome an estimated half a million tourists and athletes for the quadrennial Games. The state of Rio de Janeiro, where the Games are being hosted, is in the midst of a crippling cash crunch, and hasn't paid some government employees in more than two months. Crime is also on the rise, and Brazilian police and paramilitary forces have struggled to cope as the financial crisis has led the government to reduce their numbers.

Of late, that anger has taken the form of a series of attempts to either steal or extinguish the Olympic torch, with fire extinguishers and buckets of water. Other times, the torch bearers have simply foiled themselves by slipping or tripping.

Many in Brazil and around the world have raised questions about the hosting of expensive sports tournaments in countries with depressed economies and widespread poverty. Stadiums and accommodation for athletes and visitors are built at great cost, and often are left unused after the Games. Proponents argue that the influx of money before and during the Games spurs the development of public infrastructure, and that hosting the Games themselves should be seen as a matter of pride.

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A poll conducted earlier this month found that nearly two-thirds of Brazilians think the Olympics will do their country more harm than good.

 

 

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