Australia gives Rio mayor 'boxing kangaroo,' ends Village spat

Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:23pm EDT
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By Pedro Fonseca and Caio Saad

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Australia's Olympic delegation presented Rio de Janeiro's mayor, Eduardo Paes, with a toy boxing kangaroo on Wednesday as they laid to rest a spat over conditions in the Olympic Village that has marred the buildup to next month's Games.

Paes angered many in Brazil and abroad when he appeared to downplay Australia's complaints over conditions in the Olympic Village on Sunday by saying he might install a kangaroo on the premises to make them feel more at home.

The gift of the small, stuffed toy by Australian delegation leader Kitty Chiller showed there were no hard feelings about what she dubbed "banter" with the outspoken mayor. Paes presented the Australian team with the key to the city of Rio.

Chiller's warning on Sunday that housing in the Olympic Village was "not safe or ready" due to leaky plumbing, blocked toilets and exposed wires ignited concern over Rio's readiness to host the first Olympics in South America.

She had moved the Australian team out of the Village until the problems were solved. Argentina also boycotted the site 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.

At a ceremony in the Village on Wednesday, a smiling Paes apologized and thanked the Australian team for their understanding - and said they would be his second choice team for the Games, after Brazil.

"I think we've managed to continue laughing throughout ... to maintain our sense of humor," Chiller told a news conference after the ceremony, noting that some 50 Australian athletes had already moved back into the official accommodation.

"These Olympic games are a marathon not a sprint and I'm sure that there are going to be other hurdles and obstacles that crop up in other areas and it's just a matter of dealing with them as best as we can in good humor."   Continued...

Rio's mayor Eduardo Paes and Kitty Chiller, Chef de Mission for Australia, pose for a photo next to members of the Australian delegation at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, during a welcome ceremony he arranged for them at the Olympic village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 27, 2016.   REUTERS/Edgard Garrido