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Insulted Rio mayor hits back at Australian Olympic Committee

A stoush has erupted between Rio de Janeiro’s mayor and the Australian Olympic Committee over an athlete ban that has offended the leader of the Games’ host city.
Nanjing Night Net

Clearly fed up with a sense of negativity he has detected for some time, Rio mayor Eduardo Paes has hit back at the AOC for being “a source of aggressions to Brazil”.

“There is a lot of ignorance about Rio and Brazil, a certain drama of how things are,” Paes added.

The comments follow the AOC’s move to ban all Australian team members from visiting Rio’s favelas during Games time in August. The history of the tension, however, points back to an observation of AOC head and International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates who in April 2014 declared that Rio was “the worst” city he’d seen in terms of its Olympic preparations at the time.

While the AOC is steadfast on what it says is an entirely appropriate team safety measure, it was moved on Wednesday night to clarify its position with Brazilian Olympic authorities directly and underline that Rio had made vast improvements in regards to its competition readiness.

Mike Tancred, the AOC’s media chief, told Fairfax Media: “He [Paes] has taken it the wrong way. We didn’t mean to upset him. It was not intended to be a slur against the people of Brazil. It’s just a security question for our team and it’s nothing more than that. We’re disappointed and upset if he has taken it the wrong way.”

Australia’s position and Paes’ pointed public rebuff has attracted media attention internationally. The AOC on Wednesday night was preparing to send a written response to the communications director of Rio’s organising committee, Mario Andradas.

The Rio security plan for the Australian team, which will number around 450 athletes, is set to be formalised on Thursday after three days of planning meetings relating to all manner of issues.

The AOC is taking advice from the same security expert, Greg Nance, who guided the team in London four years ago. Nance will provide an up-to-date emergency response plan that will be distributed to Australian team leaders of all sports who will be responsible for conveying the advice to selected athletes.

The AOC accepts it cannot control the movements of every athlete or team official and has told Fairfax that a team member that chose to flout the favela directive would not be punished.

The committee expects that other large teams will impose similar limits on their teams for security reasons.

“We’re saying that officially they’re off limits,” Tancred said. “It’s a security risk and we can’t guarantee their security if they go to a favela on their own.”

The AOC released a press statement on Wednesday that began with hearty praise of the next summer Olympics hosts.

“We love Brazil and we look forward to sharing in the excitement of the Rio Games in August. Rio has made tremendous progress with their Games’ preparations and the Australian athletes are all looking forward to competing in Rio. We have no doubt Rio will deliver,” the statement said.

“In regard to the favelas, the chef de mission of the Australian Olympic team, Kitty Chiller, has decided that the favelas are off limits to our athletes because of the security. We have a team of 450 athletes, there is no way we could manage, or police, visits to the favelas by our athletes.

“Our athletes will certainly engage with the residents of Rio, and they will join in the fun on Copa beach but the favelas are areas we cannot control and the personal safety of our athletes must come first.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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