Rio will be safest place in world for athletes: USOC

Thu Jun 30, 2016 7:21pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - Even as gun battles rage in Rio de Janeiro slums, mutilated bodies wash up on beaches and police and fireman protest, the USOC on Thursday declared the 2016 Olympics will be the safest place in the world for athletes once the Games begin.

Following their final board meeting before the Olympics open on Aug. 5, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) leaders Scott Blackmun and Larry Probst downplayed the security risks and Zika threat that have plagued the run-up to the first Summer Games in South America.

While the Olympic city grapples with rising crime, a recession and exhausted state finances that could compromise security plans, the USOC gave preparations a thumbs-up, saying they were confident the Games would be safe and successful.

"I guess what I would say is that I am bringing my family down there," Blackmun, the USOC chief executive officer, told reporters.

"I feel like the safest place in the world is going to be the village and the competition venues so I think our athletes will be among the safest people in Rio because of all the security around them.

"It is a complicated world and there is risk associated with everything but ... we feel really good about Rio's preparation. There is risk associated with any Games, whether it is terrorism, or crime or transportation."

While every Olympics presents unique problems, Rio has certainly had more than its share of challenges from the threat of a dangerous drug-resistant "super bacteria" in the waters that will host open water swimming, canoe and kayak events to transportation chaos and rampant crime.


A giant banner advertising the 2016 Rio Olympics is pictured behind a statue outside a tunnel which connects Botafogo and Copacabana neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 28, 2016.REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes