Olympics

Muggings, stray bullet, gridlock mark first Olympic weekend

Long lines form at the new metro station closest to the Olympic park and village. Buses bring visitors from seemingly all directions and the transport lines come after even longer lines and wait times at Olympic venue entrances in Rio de Janeiro.
Long lines form at the new metro station closest to the Olympic park and village. Buses bring visitors from seemingly all directions and the transport lines come after even longer lines and wait times at Olympic venue entrances in Rio de Janeiro. khall@mcclatchydc.com

Olympic host Brazil struggled on opening weekend with violence, gridlock and a stray bullet ripping through a media tent.

Many Olympic events were half empty, with ticket prices out of reach for many Brazilians. But those who did come to the Olympic park and other venues faced long lines to get in and wait times of two hours or more.

“It’s absurd,” said Archemides Pedro, who came from Sao Paulo to watch tennis and waited 90 minutes to get in on Sunday, an improvement over a day earlier. “Brazilians are not used to staying in line because we have to stand in line … for everything!”

Anchors on Rio’s Rede Globo TV network warned viewers to come two hours early to avoid missing the start of events. To get to many events from downtown or the tourist haven of Copacabana takes another 90 minutes.

Leaving the venues has also proved challenging, with the main roads largely closed off to traffic and taxis because of security concerns.

Buses arrived one after the other at a metro station closest to the Olympic park and village, spilling large numbers of people through a handful of electronic turnstiles. Some escalators had already quit working at the new station on the first weekend of the games, adding to the gridlock.

Word also trickled out Sunday in the Brazilian media that Felipe Seixas, a senior federal lawman and head of security for the Opening Ceremonies at Maracana Stadium, was the target in an attempted mugging outside the stadium early Saturday in which his police escort shot and killed a would-be attacker. Also Saturday, Portuguese education minister Tiago Brandao Rodrigues was mugged in Ipanema by knife-wielding attackers as he returned from watching an Olympic cycling event.

Both events happened even as more than 85,000 soldiers and police have been dispatched to Rio to provide security for the Games.

Some of the weekend problems came at the hand of Mother Nature, with winds Sunday approaching 35 mph whipping through the Olympic village and venues around Rio.

The strong winds forced the cancellation of rowing events after buoy lines broke loose. The winds also ripped off one of the giant signs that ring the swimming arena. There were no reported injuries from the falling sign.

The most serious incident of the weekend was confirmed at a news conference Sunday. It happened a day earlier when a bullet tore through the roof of the Olympic equestrian center’s media room, where competition is held at the Deodoro venue in northwest Rio near a military base.

Rio Olympic spokesman Mario Andrada at first quickly dismissed the incident as a stray bullet and not an attack on the center, but did not say how that was determined.

On Sunday, however, he told reporters that the bullet was believed to have been fired from one of the city’s numerous favelas, as slums are known in Portuguese, but does not appear to have been fired at the Olympic venue, again without disclosing how that determination was made.

Athletes from New Zealand were present at the time of the incident and the country’s Olympic Committee released a statement on Saturday that the bullet was likely fired unintentionally. (http://www.olympic.org.nz/news/new-zealand-olympic-team-response-to-unintentionally-fired-bullet-at-equestrian-venue-in-rio/)

“The New Zealand Olympic Team executed its security protocol and team members were provided with immediate advice,” the statement said, adding, “we have advised all team members to remain within the accredited areas at the venue and travel bubble to bubble.”

Smaller problems were rampant too.

Lines at Olympic stores at points reached 400 yards, food and beer lines often took 45 minutes to get through and at the tennis venue Sunday, where tennis star Serena Williams and Britain’s Andy Murray both played, kiosks ran out of water even though the matches were not sold out.

Scattered protests were held in Copacabana on Sunday against the acting president, Michel Temer, who is running Brazil until an impeachment trial begins for President Dilma Rousseff after the Olympics.

Temer was roundly booed at Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies, and protestors tried to embarrass him over the weekend. A protester carrying an anti-Temer sign was removed from the stands during Saturday’s archery competition.

Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer, Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Linda Robertson from the Miami Herald contributed.

Kevin G. Hall: 202-383-6038, @KevinGHall

  Comments