Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - The Olympic torch approached the end of its nationwide relay around Brazil on Thursday, the day after police clashed with demonstrators and with new political protests planned for the opening ceremony.
The torch, meant to be a symbol of hope and unity, has had a troubled 12,400 (20,000 km) journey around Brazil, featuring attempts to put out the flame with buckets of water, the shooting dead of a rare, captive jaguar, and violent protests by Brazilians angry at the cost of the Games.
Late Wednesday in a poor area of northern Rio riot police fired tear gas to clear away protesters. Earlier, police hustled away one of the torch runners after he pulled down his shorts to reveal a slogan against interim president Michel Temer written on his buttocks.
On Thursday, the torch was criss-crossing the city amid heavy security before a night time relay through the wealthy southern districts of Copacabana and Ipanema.
On Friday, the torch will be carried into the Maracana stadium to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony where Temer will pronounce the Games open.
However, opponents of Temer, who took over when elected president Dilma Rousseff was suspended in May for an impeachment trial, want to spoil the party.
Both presidents are deeply unpopular but Rousseff allies claim Temer has used the impeachment to mount a coup.
Rousseff’s Workers’ Party was due to hold a demonstration in Copacabana early Friday, while a group calling itself “Temer out” planned to protest outside the Maracana stadium during the ceremony itself.
Temer has said he expects to be heckled when he makes a short announcement declaring the Games open. However, Brazilian media reports say there is a plan for the music to be turned up as soon as he finishes speaking to mask any booing.