Almost third of Rio Olympic tickets unsold

Brazilian marines stand guard at the Maua square in downtown Rio de Janeiro on July 9, 2016, ahead of the Rio Olympic Games (AFP Photo/Christophe Simon)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Nearly a third of tickets to the Rio Olympics remain unsold just over three weeks from the opening ceremony, an official said Wednesday, insisting that sales were on course.

"We have sold over 70 percent of available tickets," a spokesman for the Rio 2016 organizing committee said in an emailed statement.

The spokesman said this was "ahead of our revenue targets" and that "our goal is to sell out all tickets."

The total unsold so far amounts to some 1.7 million tickets to events at the first Olympics ever held in South America, he said.

A 30 second television spot was launched last week on nationwide Globo television, as well as cable outlets and in cinemas in a final push ahead of the August 5 opening ceremony.

Brazil is hosting the Games amid a deep recession and a political crisis in which the president, Dilma Rousseff, looks likely to be removed from office in an impeachment trial culminating just days after the Olympics end.

The organizing committee did not respond to a request for comment on a report in Estadao newspaper that there had been 40,000 ticket cancellations following a statement by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes on CNN that local police are doing a "horrible" job in ensuring safety.