OLYMPICS Aus­tralia boyco Rio DOP­ING ath­letes vil­lage, ‘not safe, not ready’

The Myanmar Times - - Olympics -

THE of­fi­cial open­ing of the Olympic Vil­lage in Rio turned to fi­asco on July 24 with the dis­cov­ery of blocked toi­lets and leaky pipes, prompt­ing the Aus­tralian del­e­ga­tion to an­nounce that its ath­letes would not stay in the fa­cil­ity, which it called “not safe or ready”.

Even Brazil­ian ath­letes who were meant to have started tak­ing up lodg­ings in the brand-new com­plex were be­ing kept in ho­tels in­stead.

Bri­tain’s del­e­ga­tion said it, too, had en­coun­tered some “main­te­nance dif­fi­cul­ties”, but added it was stay­ing in the vil­lage as planned.

Rio’s Olympic or­gan­is­ers said such teething prob­lems plagued all Olympic Games. They promised that “ad­just­ments” were be­ing made to re­solve the prob­lems.

The Olympic Games – the first to be held in South Amer­ica – are to open on Au­gust 5, less than two weeks away.

The lack of pre­pared­ness in the Olympic Vil­lage was an­other em­bar­rass­ing blow for host Brazil.

It is al­ready fac­ing low ticket sales, gen­eral pub­lic ap­a­thy amid a deep re­ces­sion, fears over the Zika virus and a spike in street crime as po­lice com­plain of lack of re­sources.

Aus­tralia’s del­e­ga­tion high­lighted the poor state of the vil­lage, a 31-build­ing com­plex lo­cated in the Barra da Ti­juca dis­trict in the west of Rio de Janeiro de­signed to house more than 18,000 ath­letes and coach­ing staff over the com­ing weeks.

“Prob­lems in­clude blocked toi­lets, leak­ing pipes, ex­posed wiring, dark­ened stair­wells where no light­ing has been in­stalled and dirty floors in need of a mas­sive clean,” the head of the Aus­tralian team, Kitty Chiller, said in a state­ment.

Dur­ing a test in­volv­ing taps and toi­lets be­ing turned on in apart­ments on sev­eral floors, “wa­ter came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apart­ments and there was ‘short­ing’ in the elec­tri­cal wiring.”

Chiller later told re­porters: “This is my fifth Olympics Games, I have never ex­pe­ri­enced a vil­lage in this lack of state of readi­ness at this point in time.”

A spokesper­son for the Bri­tish del­e­ga­tion con­firmed sim­i­lar prob­lems to AFP, but noted, “This is not un­com­mon with new-build struc­tures of this type.”

Rio’s mayor, Ed­uardo Paes, tried to laugh off the mat­ter, ac­cord­ing to Brazil­ian me­dia re­ports.

“We are go­ing to make the Aus­tralians feel at home here. I’m al­most putting a kan­ga­roo out front to jump for them,” he said.

He also boasted that the vil­lage was “more beau­ti­ful and bet­ter” than the one in Sydney in the 2000 Olympics.

New Zealand Olympic Com­mit­tee chef de mis­sion Rob Wad­dell said the vil­lage was not com­pletely ready when he ar­rived last week but the is­sues had been re­solved and Kiwi ath­letes were be­gin­ning to move into their al­lot­ted ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The of­fi­cial lodg­ings are shared rooms, all fairly ba­sic, fit­ted with anti-mos­quito de­vices to prevent the spread of Zika. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of con­doms were also be­ing sup­plied.

There is a gi­gan­tic eat­ing hall, a smaller restau­rant and prayer rooms for dif­fer­ent faiths.

There is even a “mayor” to head up the ath­lete wel­com­ing cer­e­monies: Janeth Ar­cain, a re­tired Brazil­ian bas­ket­baller who won a sil­ver Olympic medal in 1996 and a bronze in 2000.

Se­cu­rity, nat­u­rally, will be high around the com­plex, and around Rio gen­er­ally.

The ar­rest on July 21 of 10 Brazil­ians sus­pected of plan­ning at­tacks dur­ing the Olympics re­vived mem­o­ries of the Mu­nich Games in 1972 when an armed Pales­tinian group took Is­raeli ath­letes hostage and killed 11 of them.

Brazil­ian Jus­tice Min­is­ter Alexandre de Mo­raes said the sus­pects were “ab­so­lutely ama­teur”, “dis­or­gan­ised” and had no spe­cific tar­gets.

But re­cent at­tacks, such as the one on July 14 in Nice, France, that killed 84 peo­ple, have prompted of­fi­cials to bol­ster their se­cu­rity plans, no­tably by re­in­forc­ing checks and screen­ings.

From July 24, some 50,000 po­lice and sol­diers are be­ing de­ployed in Rio to pro­tect sports venues, tourist spots and key trans­port ar­eas. – THE In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion not to ban Rus­sia from the Rio Games over state-run dop­ing left in­ter­na­tional sports lead­ers di­vided yes­ter­day, less than two weeks be­fore the open­ing cer­e­mony.

Seek­ing to jus­tify the de­ci­sion, IOC pres­i­dent Thomas Bach said an out­right ban would tram­ple the rights of clean Rus­sian ath­letes who are hop­ing to com­pete at the up­com­ing Games.

In­di­vid­ual sports fed­er­a­tions will have pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for de­ter­min­ing ev­ery Rus­sian ath­lete’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for Rio, the IOC ex­ec­u­tive said.

The World Anti-Dop­ing Agency last week called for Rus­sia to be banned af­ter de­tail­ing how Rus­sia’s sports min­istry had di­rected a mas­sive cheat­ing pro­gram with help from the FSB state in­tel­li­gence agency.

United States anti-dop­ing chief Travis Ty­gart – one of many who urged a to­tal ban against Rus­sia – ac­cused the IOC of creat­ing “a con­fus­ing mess” with its de­ci­sion.

“In re­sponse to the most im­por­tant mo­ment for clean ath­letes and the in­tegrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has re­fused to take decisive lead­er­ship,” the USADA boss said in a state­ment.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Graeme Steel also crit­i­cised the IOC’s de­ci­sion to “pass the hot potato to in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tions”.

“The fight against dop­ing in sport re­quires strong in­ter­na­tional lead­er­ship, none more so in this case, where the in­tegrity of an en­tire Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games is at stake,” added Aus­tralian sports min­is­ter Sus­san Ley.

WADA of­fi­cials said they were “dis­ap­pointed” with the IOC’s de­ci­sion, which di­rec­tor gen­eral Olivier Nig­gli said would “in­evitably lead to a lack of har­mon­i­sa­tion, po­ten­tial chal­lenges and lesser pro­tec­tion for clean ath­letes”.

The cheat­ing af­fected 30 sports, in­clud­ing at the 2014 Sochi Win­ter Olympics and other ma­jor events, WADA said, in revelations that widened the worst drug scan­dal in Olympic history.

Rus­sia’s en­tire track and field squad has al­ready been barred from Rio fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar WADA re­port on “state-sup­ported” dop­ing in that sport.

Four­teen na­tional anti-dop­ing agen­cies – in­clud­ing the US, Ger­many and Ja­pan – as well as sev­eral na­tional Olympic com­mit­tees had de­manded Rus­sia’s ex­clu­sion from Rio.

But oth­ers, in­clud­ing the global gov­ern­ing body for swim­ming (FINA), op­posed a blan­ket ban, as did coun­tries such as Italy and oth­ers closer to Rus­sia.

Pat Hickey, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Olympic Com­mit­tees, said the group “com­pletely sup­ports” the IOC de­ci­sion which will “en­able the par­tic­i­pa­tion of clean Rus­sian ath­letes at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, just days away”.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tees also backed the IOC, with ANOC pres­i­dent Sheikh Ah­mad Al-Fa­had Al-Sabah say­ing an all-out ban “would have un­fairly pun­ished many clean ath­letes”.

Rus­sian sports min­is­ter Vi­taly Mutko – a key player in the WADA re­port who has been banned from Rio – hailed the IOC’s “ob­jec­tive” de­ci­sion.

Sep­a­rately, an IOC ethics com­mis­sion ruled that 800-me­tre run­ner Yuliya Stepanova, who turned whistle­blower on dop­ing in Rus­sian ath­let­ics, could not go to Rio even as a neu­tral – a de­ci­sion that both WADA and USADA de­nounced as likely to dis­cour­age oth­ers from com­ing for­ward.

Mutko told the R-Sport news agency he was “ab­so­lutely sure that the ma­jor­ity of the Rus­sian team will meet the cri­te­ria”. –

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