Lines, security scares mark shambolic start to Rio Games

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Security Tightens At Rio Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - The Rio Olympic Games got off to a shambolic and nervous start on Saturday, with organizers apologizing to angry fans kept waiting for hours at security checkpoints to enter venues while, outside, shootings and bomb scares kept visitors on edge.

Athletes competed in front of empty stands early on the first day of full competition as spectators complained of missing their events while queueing for security clearance.

The morning after a dazzling opening ceremony, organizers admitted to dropping the ball, with only a few hundred spectators making their way into venues such as the gymnastics arena and the beach volleyball on iconic Copacabana beach.

Outside, lines stretched for several blocks as fans stood in full sun and security staff struggled. Organizers blamed a lack of coordination between security personnel, including the police, Games staff and private security firms.

SEE MORE: Everything you need to know about the Summer Olympics

Gymnasts performed in front of swathes of empty seats in an arena that can seat 13,500 people. The boxing venue also had many empty seats as the first professionals in Olympics history entered the ring.

"I don't believe it. It's absurd, ridiculous," said Rio resident Natalia Carvalho, 28, who missed seeing Brazilian gymnast and medal hopeful Arthur Zanetti compete on the rings as she waited with thousands of others to enter the Olympic park.

"It's a lack of respect for the fan that bought tickets. It's a shame," she said.

What should have been a celebration of the start of South America's first Olympics turned into a damage-control operation, with Games spokesman Mario Andrada vowing an immediate improvement.

"We apologize for everybody standing in line outside the venues," he told reporters. "Within the next hours we will be in much better shape."

See images from the Opening Ceremony:

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Rio Olympics opening ceremony
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Rio Olympics opening ceremony
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Brazilian top model Gisele Bundchen takes part in the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. A scene of the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Performers take part in the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Performers take part in the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. / AFP / Leon NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Spain's flag bearer Rafael Nadal leads the delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. / AFP / Leon NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 05: Members of the United States team take part in the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 05: Members of the China Olympic team take part in the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Croatian athletes hold their national flag during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Indonesia arrive in the stadium for the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Fans celebrate during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Flagbearer Michael Phelps (USA) of United States of America leads his contingent during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Mike Blake FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Michael Phelps carries the flag of the United States during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Team Cuba arrives during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Team Burundi arrives during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Luguelin Santos carries the flag of Dominican Republic during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Team Canada wave as they walk into the stadium during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening Ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Athletes of Barbados take part in the opening ceremony REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening Ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Qatar athletes during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening Ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. The Canadian team arrives for the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Flagbearer Ali Al-thani (QAT) of Qatar leads his contingent during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Performers take part in the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Performers take part in the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening Ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Flagbearer Mohammad Siddikur Rahman (BAN) of Bangladesh leads his contingent during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 05: Members of the Spain Olympic team take part in the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Actors perform during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 5, 2016: Fireworks go off over the Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
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At the tennis center, where former world number one Ana Ivanovic played in front of virtually empty stands in the first round, fans had to wait more than 20 minutes to buy water.

Spectators encountered similar situations at the rowing and the rugby venues as temperatures hit 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).

SECURITY JITTERS

Security has emerged as a top concern after a string of killings, kidnappings and robberies in recent days.

Spectators leaving the Olympics opening ceremony at the famed Maracana stadium on Friday night were confronted by the body of a 22-year-old man shot dead by police in the street.

Police said the man had robbed several people in the area, but did not give further details.

A 51-year-old Brazilian woman was also shot dead during a robbery on Friday in the renovated "Marvelous Port" area meant to be a main attraction for Olympic tourists.

That came a day after police confirmed that a man sitting in a car had killed a suspect who tried to carjack his luxury automobile in the main Olympic area of Barra. The Russian consul denied media reports that the man was a consulate employee.

On Saturday, a bomb squad carried out a controlled explosion of an unattended bag, believed to belong to a homeless man, near the finish line of the men's cycling road race on Copacabana's sweeping boulevard.

There have been several controlled blasts in recent days as organizers have tightened security around venues, amid concerns the Games could be a target for militants.

Brazil detained 12 people for suspected links to Islamic State last month. It says the risk of an attack is minimal, with authorities having deployed 85,000 police and military to guard the Games, roughly twice the number at the 2012 London Olympics.

Lorie Schmetterling, who traveled from Moorestown, New Jersey with her husband Eric to cheer on their daughter Laura, a U.S. rower, was disturbed to learn about the bomb scare a few hundred meters from where she was staying.

"You hear all these terrible things about how it is going to be and then you get here and it seems fine," she said. "Then this happens and you feel it, you go on high alert again."

Journalists covering equestrian events in the Deodoro Olympic zone got a fright on Saturday when a stray bullet cut through the plastic roof of the equestrian media center. The bullet flew above the head of the New Zealand team's media attache, according to the team's chef de mission, Rob Waddell.

No one was injured in the incident. The equestrian venue is sited next to a military complex, though police are still trying to discover who fired the bullet and from where, a spokesman for the Rio 2016 organizing committee said.

Other robberies and thefts have targeted tourists and media in Rio. Some 500,000 foreigners are expected to pass through the city during the Games that run until Aug. 21.

Three Swedish tourists were briefly kidnapped on Wednesday by an armed man as they pulled off on a highway near a slum to take photos. They were quickly released unharmed after the gunman checked the photos they took.

Drug gangs in Rio do not allow anyone to take photos or video of the areas where they operate, for fear of having their faces seen by police.

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