Global Leaders Avoid Olympics Amid Leadership Limbo in Brazil

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A child reaches for a mascot doll during the opening of Brazil's Cocacabana Olympic megastore in Rio De Janeiro, on June 30, 2016.

Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg
  • Rio will host under half the foreign delegations in London
  • Suspended president Rousseff is still not officially impeached

Brazil will host only a fraction of the heads of state during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics as London did four years earlier, dampening its ambitions to make the 2016 summer games a moment of international acclaim.

Only about 40 countries will send delegations, several of them lower-ranking officials. Many world leaders are staying at home amid security concerns and uncertainty over Brazil’s future government. Acting President Michel Temer will preside over the inauguration ceremony and welcome foreign dignitaries at a reception in Rio Friday afternoon, while suspended president Dilma Rousseff awaits an impeachment trial later this month.

Only days after the Nice attack, Brazilian police last month arrested a group suspected of participating in an Islamic State cell and of plotting attacks during the Olympics.

Germany will be represented by President Joachim Gauck, rather than Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended both the London Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. The only other state or government chiefs confirmed by the Foreign Ministry press office for the opening ceremony are Francois Hollande of France, Mauricio Macri of Argentina, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal, Matteo Renzi of Italy, and Horacio Cartes of Paraguay.

The U.S. will be represented by John Kerry, who is expected to meet with Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra at Friday’s reception. Tentative plans for Kerry to meet with Temer in the capital city Brasilia never materialized, according to a government official involved in the Olympics planning who asked not to named because the information isn’t public.

Temer’s only bilateral meeting will be with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, though he may encounter Shinzo Abe of Japan after the closing ceremony, the government official said.

Brazil’s Senate this month is expected to try Rousseff on allegations she illegally financed government spending. If she is permanently removed, Temer plans to embark on his first trip since taking the reins of government to attend the G-20 summit of leaders in China.

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