25 July 2016
Accommodation for Olympic athletes came under scrutiny on Sunday after the Australian team said Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Village was “not safe or ready’’ for next month’s Games.
The team consequently refused to move into their allotted accommodation.
“Due to a variety of problems in the Village, including gas, electricity and plumbing I have decided that no Australian team member will move into our allocated building,’’ the head of the country’s delegation Kitty Chiller said on Sunday.
She said problems included “blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring’’.
Some Village apartments had water running down the walls and “a strong smell of gas’’, while stairwells were unlit and floors were in need of a massive clean, Chiller added.
The first Australian athletes to arrive in Rio were due to move into the Village on July 21 but have instead been living in nearby hotels.
The Games are due to start on Aug. 5.
Rio 2016 organisers did not respond to requests for comment but one official said they were aware of problems and were working to resolve them.
“There are lights, beds, air conditioning, but we still lack a few details,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
“There really are last-minute details to finish but it will be done this week.’’
Chiller, who will reassess the situation later on Sunday, said she had raised concerns on a daily basis with the organisers and the International Olympic Committee, and was “pushing hard for a solution’’.
Australia is bringing 410 athletes to Brazil, the same number as in London 2012. The team finished eighth in the overall medals table four years ago.
“Extra maintenance staff and more than 1,000 cleaners have been engaged to fix the problems and clean the Village.
“But the faults, particularly the plumbing issues, have not been resolved,’’ Chiller said.
Such issues are not uncommon in Brazil where narrow pipes and poor plumbing mean residents throw toilet paper in bins rather than flush it away.
Australian team staff are continuing to set up as best they can for the arrival of athletes.
For those coming in the next three days, alternative accommodation has been arranged.
While Chiller said the New Zealand and British teams had experienced the same problems, officials from Team GB distanced themselves from the complaints.
An advance team from the UK have been in Rio for days but said they found only minor problems with plumbing and electricals.
“We are confident that our accommodation is ready to receive athletes and will be to the highest standards within the Village,’’ said Team GB communications director Scott Field.
“Whilst we have encountered some maintenance difficulties this is not uncommon with new- build structures of this type and we have been working hard to overcome them.’’
The Australian complaints follow local media reports that some team delegations, concerned over similar issues, had sought to hire their own maintenance crews in order to make quarters suitable.
The complaints are not unlike those before other big spectacles in Brazil, like the 2014 World Cup.
Then, stadium crews were still wielding paint brushes and screwdrivers even minutes before kick-off.
The problems are also not the first to beset the Antipodeans who have come to Brazil for the first ever games to be held in South America.
A Paralympic sailor and another team official were robbed at gunpoint in June, prompting Chiller to demand a review of security procedures.
Security issues are just one of the concerns facing Rio, which last month declared a state of financial emergency to help fulfil obligations for public services during the Olympics.
Tens of thousands of troops and law enforcement officials spread out across the city on Sunday to show security was a priority for the Games.