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Rio bids to put Olympic rows behind it with spectacular opening ceremony

Published 05/08/2016

Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue is illuminated in green and yellow, the colours of Brazil's flag, to celebrate the Olympic Games (AP)
Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue is illuminated in green and yellow, the colours of Brazil's flag, to celebrate the Olympic Games (AP)

Rio will hope to put months of bad press over doping, Zika virus and last-minute building works behind it when the 31st Summer Olympic Games opening spectacular begins tonight.

Andy Murray will lead Team GB's charge into the cavernous Maracana stadium as the flag bearer, an honour the defending Olympic champion and two-time Wimbledon winner described as "by far the proudest moment of my professional career".

Britain will have 366 athletes in Rio battling to bring home a haul of medals that beats the bumper crop seen in London 2012.

But even as the final preparations were being made, further controversy threatened to overshadow the Brazilian bonanza as reports emerged of a Russian diplomatic official being involved in a fatal shooting.

Before the Games get under way it is the host nation's turn to take centre stage as millions around the world watch the opening ceremony that will showcase its history, diversity and music.

The fanfare will seek to distract from the recent political and economic crises that have rocked the country, while fears over Zika virus have meant that some stars, including top British golfer Rory McIlroy, have chosen to stay away.

There have also been reports of poor ticket sales, athletes' accommodation being unfinished and water on the sailing course carrying dangerous microbes.

Meanwhile Russia has seen dozens of its athletes barred from competing due to concerns over state-sponsored doping.

And on Thursday police in Rio said a Russian diplomat trying to repel an attempted robbery near the Olympic Park was involved in a shooting that left the assailant dead.

The Russian embassy denied any of its employees were involved in the incident.

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From Belfast Telegraph