Rio 2016: security – or the lack of it

rio_olympics_2016_logo_a_pSaddleworth Independent’s sports editor Tony Bugby is reporting from his seventh Olympic Games and here he gives an unique insight into how Rio de Janeiro is coping with the greatest show on earth.

I heard a scary statistic that there is a robbery every three minutes in Rio de Janeiro.

Though I have not had that corroborated, it is conceivable because law and order is a major issue in the Brazilian city.

And security remains a major concern at the Olympic Games after a series of incidents in the opening week, the latest when three people suffered minor injuries after a media bus travelling venues came under fire in the latest incident to overshadow Rio 2016.

It came when a bus, travelling from the basketball arena in Deodoro towards the main Olympic Park, had its windows shattered while travelling along a highway.

It remains unclear whether the windows were shot at with bullets or whether it was hit by stones or rocks.

Several passengers on the bus insist they heard the clear sound of a gun being fired. Two shots were heard hitting the vehicle with three people suffering minor cuts by flying glass.

“We don’t know yet if it was stones or bullets. The police are investigating,” said Rio 2016 director of communications Mario Andrada.

Photographer David Davies, a passenger on the bus, said: “There was kind of a popping noise and something hit two windows on the side of the bus and left two hole marks, which looked like bullet holes.”

It is a worry that these breaches are continuing to happen, especially in view of heightened security with a reported 85,000 military personnel deployed to ensure the Games pass trouble-free.

Yet despite the high visible presence of the armed forces, it must be hugely embarrassing for the authorities that such lapses are happening. And when it involves media, that is even worse for the Brazilian authorities – a spectacular own goal in terms of PR.

And being on the ground in Rio, it is hard not to be concerned what is happening.

I am largely using media transport, but most visitors are forced to use public buses, metro and railway must feel even more vulnerable.

I have used public buses on a couple of occasions, and you certainly see Rio in a different light as you are not cocooned in a bubble when using media shuttles.

But safety is a primary concern as journalists are usually carrying laptops, cameras and other IT gadgets so must be sitting targets for any would-be robbers so media transport hopefully offers a larger degree of safety.

Here’s a look back at the other security lapses in the opening week.

Bomb disposal teams have made two controlled explosions after suspect packages were found. And having been caught up in the first on Copocabana when a bag was left near the finish line in the men’s cycle road race, I know how terrifying it can be.

The explosion took place barely 15 yards from where I was stood and, though it took place inside a metal freight container, it sounded real. And what was equally worrying was that a wider area was not evacuated as elf ‘n safety in Brazil certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

A stray bullet from a military range then found its way into the media workroom at the equestrian venue in Deodoro, reportedly coming within two metres of an official from the New Zealand team.

The bullet, identified as a 5.56 millimetre assault rifle round, pierced the canvas roof of the tent before landing close to the area set up to hold a press conferences.

Portugal’s education minister Tiago Brandao Rodrigues has also been among several individuals mugged during the Games.

A Russian diplomat also reportedly shot dead an armed assailant who tried to attack him while he was in a car with his family.

A dead body was also seen in the street after the opening ceremony at the Maracan Stadium, subsequently revealed to be a robber who tried to mug undercover policemen.

That was not a surprise as the Maracana, arguably the most iconic football stadium on the planet, is in an area strewn with favellas, some not many hundred yards from the ground.

The deprivation and squalor was all too apparent passing by and getting a close-up glimpse of what life must be like living in them.

Rio is a city of great contrasts, especially the marked differences in society, the wealth and opulence and the poverty, often living side by side and that resentment is no doubt the underlying factor for the tidal wave of crime in the city.

 

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