The head of the International Olympic Committee played down problems with unfinished accommodation in Rio de Janeiro that have prompted some teams to abandon the Olympic village, saying he expected Brazil to host a “fantastic” games.
Arriving in Rio ahead of the August 5 start of the first Olympics to be held in South America, Thomas Bach said every host city experienced last-minute difficulties.
Concern over Rio’s readiness erupted on Sunday when the Australian delegation said it would not stay in the Olympic Village as the housing was “not safe or ready” due to leaky plumbing, blocked toilets and exposed wires.
Argentina’s athletes have also abandoned the village while Italy and New Zealand said they had been forced to call in workers to fix problems after organizers admitted the blocks had been handed over without proper testing of water and power systems.
“The last couple of days before the Olympics Games there is always one issue or other to be solved. The Brazilians will solve it,” Bach told reporters. “You can already feel the Olympic energy here … We always had confidence in Brazil, in the Brazilians, that it will be a fantastic Olympic Games.”
Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor, Eduardo Paes, deployed hundreds of workmen to the Olympic village and expects to have all 31 blocks ready for use by the end of the week. So far only a fraction of the athletes have turned up, organizers say.
The Australian delegation gave Paes a tiny “boxing kangaroo” doll as the sign of a truce. It also said it’s now happy with its rooms at Rio’s Olympic Athletes Village.
Paes apologized and acknowledged Australia’s “was the worst building.” In a gesture of goodwill, Paes presented the head of the Australian delegation, Kitty Chiller, with the keys to the city of Rio and thanked her for her understanding.
The metro line to carry visitors from the center of Rio to the distant western neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca where the Games will be held will only be inaugurated on Saturday by interim President Michel Temer.
Paes told a news conference the city would benefit from the legacy of the Games, which had allowed the completion of long-delayed projects. Visitors, he said, “will not find a perfect city but a much better one than we had in 2009.”
A poll published in the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper said a majority of Brazilians are pessimistic about the impact of the Olympics. The survey by polling group Ibope showed 60% of Brazilians believe the games, expected to cost around 40 billion reais (about US$ 12 billion) will bring more harm than good to Brazil.
Keep Mouths Closed
Aquatic athletes competing in the forthcoming Rio Olympics Games have been advised to keep their mouths shut while competing because they will “literally be swimming in human crap” and could pick up heavy duty illnesses from the contaminated water.
According to The New York Times, scientists have tested Rio’s contaminated beaches and water and found an innumerable amount of toxins, including rotaviruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea and potentially fatal “super bacteria.”
Guanabara Bay, where Rio will host windsurfing and sailing events during the Olympics, is heavily polluted. What’s more, researchers from the Federal University of Rio have found that the beaches where spectators will observe the games are also dangerous and covered with garbage.
The Brazilian government acknowledged a problem with the nation’s waters in Guanabara Bay seven years ago, and promised to clean them up. Officials have now said that their efforts have been ineffective.
“Our biggest plague, our biggest environmental problem, is basic sanitation,” Andrea Correa, the top environmental official in the state of Rio, told The New York Times. “The Olympics has woken people up to the problem.”
Seven years later, government and Olympic officials admit efforts to treat sewage and clear garbage from Guanabara Bay and the city’s beaches have been insufficient, prompting the warnings from health experts.
One doctor told The New York Times that athletes will “literally be swimming in human crap”. Pediatricians Daniel Becker also warned they were at risk of getting sick from microorganisms and toxins in the water.
Afrodite Zegers, a member of the Dutch sailing team, has been practicing in the polluted Guanabara Bay. “We just have to keep our mouths closed when the water sprays up,” she said.
However environment secretary Correa said new barriers aimed to prevent the flow of garbage into the bay and thought competitors won’t have any trouble.
“There is no bay in the world with no rubbish. Is there a chance we’ll have some problem? There is a very small chance, but it can’t be ignored. It’s not impossible. But I am very optimistic that we can guarantee a fair regatta.”
Correa said the barriers, placed across 17 principal rivers, aim to stop 85% of garbage running into the bay.