Olympics hell: Unpaid Rio police say visitors ‘will not be safe’

by WorldTribune Staff, July 5, 2016

Visitors to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games “will not be safe” according to the city’s police officers, who say they have not been paid for months.

“Welcome to Hell,” a sign held by a protesting police officer said outside Rio’s main airport. “Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe,” the sign said.

police officers protest with a banner that reads in Portuguese 'Olympics with unpaid police'. /AP
Police officers in Rio de Janeiro protest with a banner that reads in Portuguese ‘Olympics with unpaid police’. /AP

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes told CNN the state was doing a “terrible” job in regard to security in the lead-up to the games, set to begin on Aug. 5.

“It’s completely failing at its work of policing and taking care of people,” Paes said.

Last month, an Australian athlete was mugged close to her hotel.

Rio de Janeiro state, which controls the region’s military police force, issued an executive order requesting emergency funds from the federal government to pay officers their bonuses and overtime.

Acting Rio state Gov. Francisco Dornelles said the Olympics could be a “big failure” without the funds. Brazilian officials said the back pay will be distributed this week.

Brazil has been plagued by problems leading up to the Olympics including the impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, construction delays on several facilities, polluted waterways and the Zika virus. Several elite athletes have pulled out of the Games over Zika fears.

Meanwhile, drug-resistant bacteria has been found in Guanabara Bay, which will be the site of several Olympic events.

“These bacteria should not be present in these waters,” Renata Picao, a professor at Rio’s federal university whose study found the super bug told Scientific American. “They should not be present in the sea.”

Researchers believe the bacteria entered the bay from raw sewage that has flowed in from tributaries from not only thousands of households in Rio, but also hospitals where the super bug is generally found.

“I wouldn’t say to change the venues because we don’t know the risks yet,” Picao told CNN. “We are making this alert because, if athletes get infected there is a chance this bacteria is multi-resistant and the physicians should know about this.”

Independent studies by The Associated Press show high level of pathogens in waters that Rio is using for sailing, rowing, canoeing and open-water swimming.

Brazilian officials, meanwhile, are moving to reassure the world that Rio is up to the task of hosting the Olympics.

“We are ready to start the games,” Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, said at a press conference in the city, adding that the event “could start today.”

“They will be a maximum success in this beautiful city of ours,” he said.

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