IOC, Pele support peaceful protests in Brazil

The IOC says it supports peaceful protests across Brazil, claiming the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will bring significant benefits to that city. Anti-government protests have criticized the billions of dollars being spent to host the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup.

Says Rio Olympics will bring major benefits

Students take over a bus station in Brasilia during a protest on Wednesday, calling for a public transport free pass in Brazil's Federal District. (Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images)

The IOC is "fully supportive of peaceful protest" in Brazil and confident the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will bring major benefits to the city and country.

Anti-government protests have spread across Brazil in the past week. Originally triggered by an increase in bus and subway fares, the demonstrations have also targeted the billions of dollars being spent on hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Games.

The IOC awarded the Olympic to Rio in 2009, sending the games to South America for the first time and rewarding Brazil for its emergence on the global economic stage. The current scenes of mass protests and police crackdowns have underlined the challenges ahead for Rio.

Pele releases statement

Football great Pele insists he supports the Brazilian popular protests sweeping the country, as long as they're peaceful.

Pele was criticized online for telling Brazilians to forget about the nationwide demonstrations and focus on cheering on the national team, but he said he was never against the movement.

He said in a television interview that the country should only "think about the national team," prompting Brazilians to flood social media sites to mock his comments. Pele had expressed support for the protests in the same interview, but only the part in which he told Brazilians to "forget about this mess that is happening in Brazil" went viral.

Pele's comments were made just before Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 in its second match at the Confederations Cup.

"Let's forget about this mess that is happening in Brazil and let's think about the national team, which is our country, our blood," Pele told Globo TV. "Let's not jeer the Selecao, let's support it until the end."

Associated Press

"The Olympic Games in 2016 will bring significant benefits to the whole population of Rio, improving the city in terms of transport, infrastructure and social housing, as well as bringing a considerable sporting legacy for Brazil," the IOC said in a statement Thursday to The Associated Press.

The International Olympic Committee said polls have showed that the majority of the population support the games "and the legacy they will bring."

The unrest has also raised questions about Brazil's ability to provide security for Olympics.

"We are always fully supportive of peaceful protest and remain confident in the ability of the Games as a powerful catalyst for improving the world through sport," the IOC said.

City, state and other local governments are spending more than $12 billion US on projects for the Olympics in Rio.

The demonstrations have coincided with the Confederation Cup football tournament, a dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup.

In an interview with Brazil's Globo TV network, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he could "understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard."

"We did not impose the World Cup on Brazil," he said.