Is Rio Ready For Olympics?

Questions and complaints are mounting as Brazil prepares to host the Summer Olympics in August. There have been concerns raised about infrastructure, safety, health, and Brazil’s economic and political crisis. The latest controversy has come from the Australian Olympic team. The team’s leader, Kitty Chiller, has decided to keep her group from the Athletes Village until improvements are made to the facilities. Chiller cited “blocked toilets, leaking pipes, and exposed wiring”, reports the Washington Post. More than 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries will be converging in Rio over the next few weeks.

Is Rio Ready For Olympics? [Photo by Leo Carrera/AP Images]A local official in Rio de Janeiro has acknowledged there were some issues, particularly for the Australian, New Zealand and Brazilian teams. The New Zealand and Brazilian squads have agreed to stay in the Village, while the Australians are expected to return. Organizers are scrambling to finish Olympic infrastructure before the opening ceremonies on August 5. Areas still under construction include the Athletes village, a subway line, and a beach volleyball venue. Some countries are apparently bringing in their own work crews to complete housing facilities, according to Reuters.

Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed to ensure the Olympics go on without a hitch. In the wake of recent terror attacks in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East, more than 85,000 security personnel are patrolling throughout the greater Rio metropolitan city of over 12 million. A week ago 11 people were arrested on suspicion of being Islamic State supporters planning possible attacks on venues.

Brazil is also known for high crime rates in its larger cities. Drug trafficking is rampant. CBS News says running gun battles between gang members are common. New crime figures for 2016 are showing a 14 percent increase in homicides from a year ago and a 27 percent increase in the number of muggings. One athlete from New Zealand, who has been living in Rio for several months, reported that he was threatened by armed gunmen and forced to withdraw money from an ATM machine.

Creating even more tension are police complaints about not getting paid on time. Police stations in Rio are reportedly taking public donations on everything from toilet paper to gasoline for patrol cars. The financial situation could further hinder security forces dealing with rising crime rates.

Others have called for a cancellation of the Olympics after the recent outbreak of the Zika virus centered in Brazil. Some athletes have declined to participate based on the threat of the disease. Ticket sales to events are also said to be slumping based on the Zika fears and are being offered at lower prices. The virus is carried to humans by mosquitoes. It can result in brain damage disorders to newborn babies. Scientists are worried that over one million women of child-bearing age could get infected in South and Central America.

Brazil is currently in an economic and political crisis. In an economic boom when the games were awarded in 2009, Brazil’s economy shrank 5.4 percent in the first quarter of 2016. The Brazilian Congress also voted to impeach president Dilma Rousseff. She has been forced to step down and suspended from office amid corruption charges. Rousseff is awaiting an impeachment trial. Other leading political figures have also resigned amid the developing scandal.

Is Rio Ready For Olympics? [Photo by Eraldo Peres/AP Photo]Brazilian and International Olympic Committee officials say they are confident the Summer Games will proceed as planned and be a success. They cite examples of Olympics in previous years where facilities were not ready days before the opening ceremonies but were still completed just in time. It is the first time a South American country has hosted an Olympics. In 2014, Brazil hosted the prestigious World Cup without any major incidents or disruptions.

[Photo by Leo Correa/AP Photo]