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FEATURE Rio 2016 spectators are having a blast despite logistical issues By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa

Europe
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Organizers acknowledge that the Rio Olympics have had a few "teething problems" in their early days, but that has not stopped spectators from enjoying the world‘s top sporting event.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Security problems, polluted water, the Zika virus and long queues: the negative headlines about the Rio Olympics have been aplenty. But that has not stopped millions of people from flocking to the first Games in South America.

Welcomed at the Olympic Park by cheering volunteers and discovering the electric atmosphere in the arenas, many of the spectators have been quickly charmed.

"When you arrive, everyone is yelling, everyone is happy - even at 9 am in the morning, after spending one hour on the bus. It‘s really fantastic," said Frenchman Mathias Burban, who was watching Monday‘s fencing bouts at his first Olympics.

Burban had landed at the fencing competition "completely by chance" and was not at all familiar with the sport, but got a quick explanation from other French fans nearby.

It was the first competition Burban was attending in Rio with a friend, but he was already a fan, promising that "we will be back for other Olympics."

Some 82 per cent of the five million tickets on offer had been sold for the Rio Games by Sunday, with 75 per cent going to Brazilians, but organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada was not concerned by the empty seats at many venues.

"Even though we had a few empty seats in some stadiums, we never had a low atmosphere," Andrada told journalists.

"I believe the Brazilian fans, who are the majority of the crowd, are learning to love and how to appreciate sports," he added, noting that the country‘s long obsession with football and volleyball has left Brazilians not knowing "how to behave" in other sports.

But that didn‘t daunt Marcia Hoefle, who was watching fencing for the first time. The Brazilian national, who studied in Germany, said she was enjoying the atmosphere at the bout and had figured out that a light going on meant that a point was scored.

"It‘s fun," she said with a smile, welcoming too the fact that the Olympics have brought more security to downtown Rio than she had ever seen before.

But she also noted that it had taken her and three friends nearly two hours to reach the Olympic venue in the south of the city, after covering some of the distance by car and then switching over to a crowded bus.

"It was too full. We could barely breathe," she said.

The organizers also had to contend with long waits at the venue‘s security checkpoints on Saturday, the first day of competitions.

"Some people, especially those with children, have decided to go home, which we regret," Andrada said on Sunday.

"There are always teething problems," Rio 2016 communications director Mark Adams added. "[We are] working hard to solve them."

On Monday morning, lines at the security checks had dwindled considerably.

US visitors Doug Bartels and Jenny Coombs, decked out in clothes featuring the Stars and Stripes, were struggling to find their sporting venue, but were happy with the organization.

"Given how many people are coming here, it could be worse," Bartels said.

And in the end, he was just happy to be attending his first Olympics, with a full line-up of field hockey, beach volleyball, handball and swimming competitions to watch.

"I‘ve been wanting to do this forever," he said.

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