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