Prez Rousseff vows crisis won't mar Rio Games

The flame, which arrived in a small lantern from the ancient Greek site of Olympia, via Switzerland, was transferred to Brazil's Olympic torch featuring waves of tropical colors.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff holds the Olympic torch as Brazilian volleyball player Fabiana Claudino applauds after the torch was ignited at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Tuesday.   -  AP

Embattled President Dilma Rousseff greeted the Olympic flame in Brazil on Tuesday, promising not to allow a raging political crisis, which could see her suspended within days, to spoil the Rio Games.

"We are experiencing political instability. We are going through a very difficult period, truly critical in the country's history and in the history of democracy," Rousseff said in the capital Brasilia. However, "Brazil will provide the very best reception for athletes and foreign visitors because we have created the conditions for this."

The flame, which arrived in a small lantern from the ancient Greek site of Olympia, via Switzerland, was transferred to Brazil's Olympic torch featuring waves of tropical colors.

The torch will now be carried in a relay by 12,000 people through 329 cities, ending in Rio's Maracana stadium on August 5 for the opening ceremony.

Air Force jets roared overhead in a clear blue sky to write "Rio 2016" and the five Olympic rings in their vapor trails. Then there were cheers as the first relay runner, double Olympic gold winning women's volleyball captain Fabiana Claudino, set off.

Twelve-year-old Syrian refugee Hanan Daqqah, who arrived in Brazil's biggest city Sao Paulo with her family in 2015, was also among the 10 first torch bearers.

But political turmoil overshadowed the ceremony ahead of South America's first ever Olympics. Rousseff will be suspended from office for six months next week if the Senate votes on May 11 or 12 to open an impeachment trial, meaning that Tuesday could have been one of her final major public events as president.

She is accused of illegally manipulating government accounts but says she is the victim of a coup mounted by her vice president, Michel Temer, who would replace here if she is suspended. In a brief speech at the torch-lighting ceremony, Rousseff said the relay would put Brazil's beauty on display, but she also laced her comments with references to her fight for political survival.

"I am certain that a country whose people know how to fight for their rights and to protect their democracy is a country where the Olympics will have great success in the coming months," she said.

A swarm of police jogged alongside the first torch runners, possibly to separate them from protesters in the crowd who held up banners, including one reading "No to the coup."