Rio scrambles to be ready as athletes, soldiers arrive

Sun Jul 24, 2016 6:54pm EDT
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of armed troops fanned out across Rio de Janeiro and local organizers faced a rebellion by Australia about unfinished living accommodations as athletes began to move in Sunday for the first Olympics ever in South America.

Australia's Olympic team, complaining about uninhabitable rooms in the Olympic Village, refused to check in. Kitty Chiller, the head of the country's delegation, complained of "blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring."

In the final stretch before the Games start Aug. 5, more than 60,000 troops took positions across the city, part of an overall contingent of more than 85,000 soldiers, police and other security forces that will be deployed for the event at a time of heightened fears after recent massacres in Germany, France and the United States.

Meanwhile, authorities rerouted traffic in Barra de Tijuca, site of many game venues and the Olympic Village, which will house more than 11,000 athletes, coaches and staff.

Olympic organizers are still scrambling to finish everything from a beach volleyball venue to a new subway line, set to open just days before the opening ceremony. At the village, where lines formed Sunday as athletes began checking in, work crews were still making last minute repairs.

Australia's refusal to move in follows local media reports that some team delegations, concerned over similar issues, had sought to hire their own maintenance crews in order to make their quarters suitable.

Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the local organizing committee, on Sunday said organizers are aware of the problems with some rooms, particularly affecting teams from Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.

"There are some electrical issues and some leaks," he said, noting that a team of about 500 workers is currently addressing the problems. "It's one of those things with new buildings, but it should not have happened."   Continued...

Special police forces patrol inside the Olympic Park less than two weeks before the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares