RIO DE JANEIRO — The first Olympics in Brazil are underway — aptly with a game of soccer in the sport’s spiritual home. Just not a very memorable one.
Sweden’s women beat South Africa 1-0 in a drab group-stage game Wednesday in front of a sparse crowd of only a couple of thousand spectators in Rio de Janeiro. It was settled by veteran defender Nilla Fischer opening her third Olympics by scoring in the 75th minute.
The Olympic Stadium should be far fuller and more boisterous later in the day when the hosts are in action. Brazil’s women begin their quest for a first Olympic soccer title against China, a day before the men’s team opens against South Africa in the capital Brasilia.
Organizers will be hoping the 14 soccer games being played over Wednesday and Thursday will see excitement build ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium, which hosted the World Cup final two years ago.
The Olympic Stadium is also known as Joao Havelange Stadium, named after the 100-year-old Brazilian who led soccer’s governing body FIFA for 24 years. Havelange stepped down as honorary president of FIFA in 2013 to avoid possible suspension for taking kickbacks.