SPORTS

Brazilian president scraps torch-lighting trip to Greece

TAGS: Olympics

Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has canceled plans to attend the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia later this month, Greece's Olympic Committee (HOC) said on Friday.

Rousseff, facing an impeachment effort over a series of scandals and probes in Brazil, had been set to attend the April 21 event along with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.

The ritual at the birthplace of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, traditionally marks the countdown to the world's biggest multi-sports event with a torch lighting ceremony and the start of a torch relay.

"The President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff has canceled her presence at the event according to information provided to the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) by the embassy of Brazil," event organizers HOC said in a statement.

There were no further details on her decision not to attend.

Rio will host the first Olympics in South American from Aug. 5-21, with their torch relay starting on May 3 in the capital Brasilia and ending in Rio on the day of the opening ceremony.

However, preparations have been hit by the country's recent economic downturn, with Games organizers racing to save money through a series of last minute cost-cutting measures.

They have also battled polluted waters, where sailing and rowing events will be held, as well as the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus that has spread across the continent.

Ticket sales have also been lagging compared to previous Games with less than half of them sold, according to data announced by organizers last month.

Police and prosecutors have also said they suspect corruption in Olympic building projects carried out by the same construction and engineering firms charged with graft in a major scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras.

[Reuters]

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