Pollution, venue construction delays, labor strikes….news out of Brazil, as the country prepares to host the 2016 Olympic Games, has not exactly been positive as of late. Now, with several violent criminal incidents having taken place in eyesight of Rio’s Olympic venues, overall security and safety issues can be added to the list of concerns among the local media.
On May 19, a 55-year-old cyclist was stabbed to death while cycling near the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, close to the site in which rowing and canoe sprint events will be held (todayszaman.com). A 19-year-old French cyclist has also been assaulted in the same district in recent weeks, spending 15 days in intensive care before recovering (insidethegames). Several months earlier in December, while walking back to their hotel, two British sailors were mugged at knifepoint and robbed of all possessions, with the incident taking place very close to Copacabana Bay, the site of beach volleyball, open water swimming and triathlon events (insidethegames).
According to recent statistics, the state of Rio de Janeiro, which includes the city of Rio, saw a drop in murders in 2012. But homicides began rising again, jumping 21 percent to 4,939 people killed in 2014. “Security is an issue for our everyday life,” says Rio de Janeiro mayor, Eduardo Paes. In total, there have been over 40,000 murders in Rio de Janeiro over the past eight years, it is estimated. Distancing the violence from overall Games preparations, Paes further commented that, “this is not an issue about the Olympics. It’s an issue about us Cariocas [Rio residents] and the way we conduct our lives.”
The State Secretary for Security, Jose Mariano Beltrame, described the violence at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas as “unacceptable” and has already announced changes in the district police chain of command, deploying more officers on bicycles and cavalry offices. With just 14 months out from the start of the 2016 Olympic Games, it remains to be seen if there is still time to rectify the list of global concerns, which appear to be ever-growing.