‘Con­fi­dent’ commi ee hides truth from ath­letes, fans

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

THERE is a lot of of­fi­cial con­fi­dence at the Rio Games, and be­hind it a lot of flat-out eva­sion. There are robberies and snapped ca­bles, but the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee and lo­cal or­gan­is­ers are “con­fi­dent” that all is safe. There is ram­pant theft in­side of what are sup­posed to be re­stricted venues, but they are “con­fi­dent” all is se­cure. Ath­letes have got­ten sick, but they are “con­fi­dent” all is healthy. They are pos­i­tively, adamantly, con­fi­dent.

You know those swim­ming pools at Maria Lenk Aquat­ics Cen­tre that turned so green? The of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tions don’t add up, ac­cord­ing to wa­ter ex­pert Joseph Cotruvo, who spent 25 years as the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s di­rec­tor of drink­ing wa­ter stan­dards. I emailed him the tran­scripts of Rio or­gan­is­ers’ me­an­der­ing state­ments that hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide was mis­tak­enly poured into the pools on the day of the Open­ing Cer­e­monies, neu­tral­is­ing the chlo­rine, and their in­sis­tence the pools were nev­er­the­less safe. Cotruvo wrote back that the of­fi­cial state­ments sug­gest the pools might have gone with­out ad­e­quate dis­in­fect­ing for four days. From a health stand­point, “That is un­con­scionable,” he wrote.

Do you know how many bod­ies plunged in those pools and how much may have fes­tered? Cotruvo, who serves on the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Drink­ing Wa­ter Guide­lines Com­mit­tee, would like to see the mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy re­ports from those four days, and so would I. “That would be in­ter­est­ing data,” he wrote. I emailed the IOC re­quest­ing it. I also re­quested data on how many ath­letes have got­ten sick, and what their ill­nesses are. The IOC has not replied.

In the open-wa­ter events, a Bel­gian sailor has com­plained of con­tract­ing dysen­tery while other ath­letes are slug­ging mouth­wash to kill any po­ten­tial bac­te­ria in their throats. But IOC med­i­cal di­rec­tor Richard Bud­gett pub­licly as­sured us in a news con­fer­ence Mon­day that the open wa­ter is not un­healthy ei­ther, de­spite how no­to­ri­ously in­fected Rio’s wa­ter­ways are with garbage and sewage.

“A num­ber of ath­letes do get ill and will get ill in all kinds of sports, and we have looked care­fully to make sure it’s not re­lated to the wa­ter qual­ity,” Bud­gett said. “We can be con­fi­dent the ill­nesses are not re­lated to that.”

At the same brief­ing, Bud­gett said we can also “be very con­fi­dent” that the drug test sam­ples at the Rio an­ti­dop­ing lab are pro­tected, be­cause there is a ded­i­cated sur­veil­lance cam­era and a “huge” se­cu­rity pres­ence sta­tioned at the freezer.

How re­liev­ing to know that Ryan Lochte’s urine is so safe.

What­ever the topic, there is al­ways a con­ve­nient as­sur­ance from of­fi­cial­dom here. Lochte and three other Amer­i­cans got held up at gun­point af­ter cel­e­brat­ing the end of the swim­ming com­pe­ti­tion, but the IOC and lo­cal or­gan­is­ers are so con­fi­dent they re­fused to is­sue a safety ad­vi­sory to the del­e­ga­tions. Rio 2016 spokesper­son Mario An­drada said, “We re­gret the vi­o­lence has got so close to the ath­letes. We have re­quested the se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties that they need to make sure ev­ery­body is safe ev­ery­where in the city.”

Ac­tu­ally, Rio’s street crime is not nearly as con­cern­ing as the vis­i­bly sloppy, hap­haz­ard se­cu­rity in­side the venues. On the day of the Open­ing Cer­e­monies, Sports Il­lus­trated in­stalled a US$10,000 cam­era on the roof of Mara­cana Sta­dium. The only peo­ple who were sup­pos­edly al­lowed up there were se­cu­rity and specif­i­cally ac­cred­ited per­son­nel. The cam­era was stolen. The Agence France Presse photo agency has lost 10 cam­eras, worth an es­ti­mated 40,000 Eu­ros ($45,000), from in­side venues. In one in­stance early in the Games, an uniden­ti­fied man and a woman wan­dered briefly into the AFP of­fice in­side the Main Press Cen­ter, and then dis­ap­peared – with an en­tire cam­era bag of gear. AFP pho­tog­ra­phers have also had cam­eras stolen from in­side Lagoa Sta­dium, and the ten­nis venue.

“It’s been a very heavy toll for us,” AFP’s Eric Bara­dat said.

News Corp pho­tog­ra­pher Bret Costello’s bag full of equip­ment was boosted from a cof­fee bar in Copaca­bana, but that wasn’t the scary part. The scary part was a cou­ple of days later when he was stand­ing in the se­cu­rity line at the archery venue and saw the thief pos­ing as him, wear­ing his of­fi­cial photo vest.

No won­der the lo­cal se­cu­rity is so itchy. There have been con­trolled ex­plo­sions of sus­pi­cious pack­ages out­side Mara­canã, a bas­ket­ball venue, the cy­cling road race and the In­ter­na­tional Broad­cast Cen­ter.

Are you con­fi­dent in the con­fi­dence of th­ese so very con­fi­dent of­fi­cials? I’m not. Es­pe­cially not af­ter a huge cam­era owned by the Olympic Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice crashed to the ground in the mid­dle of the Olympic Park on the af­ter­noon of Au­gust 15, in­jur­ing seven spec­ta­tors. The ex­pla­na­tions for that one were just as re­as­sur­ing as the swim­ming pool fi­asco. Ac­cord­ing to OBS, there was a prob­lem with the guide rope of the cam­era, so it called for a cherry-picker to come to the scene to ef­fect re­pairs. The cam­era was sup­ported by two in­de­pen­dent ca­bles “each one of which could carry the full load of the cam­era”. Ap­par­ently not. “A few min­utes later, both ropes si­mul­ta­ne­ously broke.”

It was just an­other day at the Rio Games. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion is pend­ing, and to­mor­row, of­fi­cials will no doubt ad­dress the in­ci­dent.

I’m con­fi­dent there will be no dan­ger to the pub­lic or the ath­letes.

– The Wash­ing­ton Post

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