Rio de Janeiro will be “the safest city in the world” during the Olympics Games in six weeks time, organising committee spokesperson Mario Andrada has insisted.
The buildup to the August 5-21 Games have been clouded by health and security worries, after an Australian Paralympic athlete was robbed at gunpoint in the city just days ago, while several high-profile golfers have withdrawn because of fears surrounding the Zika virus.
Sailor and wheelchair basketball player Liesl Tesch became the second Olympian to be the victim of an armed robbery in Rio in the last month.
But Rio 2016 spokesperson Andrada is full of confidence that the world’s biggest sporting event will take place without incident.
“Olympic security is a federal issue,” Andrada said. “It is the state of Brazil, not the regional state of Rio, which will protect athletes, tourists, media and officials.”
“We have experience from the 2014 World Cup, when we welcomed the world of football in 12 venues without major incident.”
“Federal security resources, experience from the World Cup and technology will ensure that Rio will be the safest city in the world during the Games.”
Earlier this week, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy added his name to a growing list of golfers who will skip their sport’s return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence.
Along with other former major champions Vijay Singh and Charl Scwhartzel, McIlroy cited the mosquito-borne Zika virus as a key reason for his decision.
Reigning Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford even had his sperm frozen because of concerns of the effects of the disease which is linked to serious birth defects.
Andrada insisted though that there is no need for athletes coming to Brazil to worry.
“Zika is a global issue. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has global leadership on this issue and has said several times that Zika did not represent a public health risk for the Olympics,” he said.
“It will be winter. Today, we have more risk of being infected by Zika in Florida than in Rio.”
“We are confident that athletes who come to Rio will find a safe city without mosquitoes, without Zika, and with an ideal atmosphere in which to become heroes of the Olympic world and win medals.”
There has also been confusion surrounding the budget for the competition, with Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes saying that the Games have cost 35% less than expected and were not to blame for Brazil’s disastrous economy.
But Andrada said that that does not mean that too much money had been given to the organising committee.
“What we did was we saved to be guaranteed to have money until the end,” he added. “Part of the money we received comes from the IOC (International Olympic Committee). So that we don’t spend time looking for money the IOC have anticipated some of the payments to make things easier until the start of the Olympic Games.”