By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – With the recent terror attack in France, Brazilian authorities announced they will be reviewing all security procedures for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August. On Friday Brazil’s interim President, Michel Temer, met with aides to discuss further security measures to be taken during the Olympics and Paralympic competitions.
“We are still under the effect of the tragedy that struck France. Since then, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defense and the Office of Institutional Security are working so that we can ensure a high level of security for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” General Sergio Etchegoyen said in a news conference on Friday.
Etchegoyen, the head of the Institutional Security Office, added, “This requires a number of revisions, new measures and intense work going forward to maintain this level of security. Obviously, our concern level has risen.
According to Etchegoyen in addition to increasing searches on those going into the Olympic complex, security agents are also considering increasing traffic restrictions around competition venues. “For example, if today you can drive up to 50 meters from Maracanã [stadium], we may have to push the barriers to 100 meters,” said the general.
Etchegoyen also said that the government will ask the population for help, reporting any suspicious actions to authorities. He said that he hopes the people of Rio understand that the increased security is ‘for their own benefit’. “It is important that people understand that they will exchange a little comfort for more security. We are ready for the 2016 Games, we just need to review our procedures,” added the official.
As for recent media reports that the French national team would be a target during the Games, the general said Brazilian officials were not able to confirm the rumors. According to Etchegoyen all delegations will be treated the same, with ‘the highest level of security attention’.
In Rio the French-Algerian teacher, Adlène Hicheur, a visiting professor at the Physics Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), was summarily deported from Brazil last night (July 15th). According to preliminary information, he was deported to France, where he was convicted in 2009 and served prison time for exchanging messages with people involved in terrorist acts.
In a statement the UFRJ said they were surprised and concerned about the action of the Federal Police, which was “announced without presenting clear explanations and attention to basic democratic principles”, in reference to the right to defense. Hicheur had been at the university since 2013.
Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, in a TV interview to Globo TV downplayed the growing security concerns, saying Rio de Janeiro in August will be the safest place on earth. Paes said “Brazil is not a preferred terrorist target, but when organizing a big event with countries that are the target there is always a risk.”
“Probably the security forces will demand from us more blocked roads, more inconvenience. The Olympics is a mega-event, and we have alerted the population that [stricter security] measures will occur,” said Paes, adding, “If you want to go to a safe place in the world in August, come to Rio de Janeiro.”
More than 17,000 athletes and at least half a million visitors are expected to be in Rio during the Games. Brazilian officials have said that more than 85,000 security agents will be at hand to help guarantee safety, including 21,000 armed forces personnel.
The armed forces will be in charge of securing Rio’s international airport, competition venues, and will be stationed along Copacabana beach, where many water sports events will be held. The air force will put up restriction around Rio’s air space starting July 24th.