Latin America & Caribbean

Protest mars Olympic torch Rio arrival ahead of ceremony

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Media captionHundreds of demonstrators took to the streets to voice their anger

Chaotic scenes marred the arrival of the Olympic torch in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.

Hundreds of demonstrators angry at the high cost of hosting the Games protested and riot police used tar gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Images on news websites showed at least one policeman appearing to fire a projectile directly at a protester.

The Olympic torch arrived in Rio de Janeiro by boat after a three-month tour of Brazilian cities.

The mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, carried the torch on its first few laps through the city centre.

But images taken later showed crowds of people including many families with children who had come out to watch the torch relay running away in fear from the police action.

The police told local media that a group of people refused to leave one lane of the road open for the torch as had been agreed earlier and blocked the street in one place.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Rio Mayor, Eduardo Paes carried the Olympic torch on its first few laps of the city centre
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The torch arrived in Rio by boat accompanied by Brazilian Olympic gold medallist yachtsmen, Lars Grael (L)

They said they had to intervene to contain the chaos and clear the road.

The BBC's Wyre Davies in Brazil says that this is exactly what Olympic organisers feared might happen after what has been a relatively peaceful and sometimes spectacular torch relay.

On Tuesday at least three protesters were arrested by the police in the town of Niteroi, across the bay from Rio during the torch relay there.

The police used pepper spray and part of the relay had to be abandoned.

Brazil is in the grip of a deep recession and political crisis, and further protests are expected ahead of the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday.

Organisers say more than a million tickets remain unsold.

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