By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the city of Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazilian security agents announced plans to implement an enhanced security plan to welcome foreign dignitaries and city mayor asks residents to stay indoors. The first Olympic Games to be hosted in South America starts tonight, Friday, August 5th, and continues until August 21st.
According to Brazilian officials 45 foreign dignitaries will be attending tonight’s opening ceremony. Due to the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, many nations opted to send high-level representatives rather than heads of state.
Among leaders already confirmed are the presidents of France, Argentina, Portugal, Italy and Paraguay. Germany’s representative will be President Joachim Gauck, and not Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Chief of Staff, John Kerry will represent the United States.
Foreign officials will be invited to a special dinner in the center of Rio before being transported to Maracana Stadium for the commencement ceremony. Along the route, elite snipers will be monitoring the streets from rooftops.
“There is absolutely nothing to worry us enough to put on alert contingency forces but plans A and B have been drawn up for every possible scenario regarding the Olympics” Director-General of Brazil’s Intelligence Agency-ABIN, Wilson Trezza, was quoted as saying by O Globo.
Roads in the center of Rio have been closed off to the public since midnight. Local media reports that special security attention has been given to France’s President, Francois Hollande and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.
In addition to the foreign dignitaries more than 11,000 athletes from all over the world will attend the opening ceremony. Approximately 80,000 people are expected at Maracana stadium Friday night.
Rio’s mayor also asked those who did not have tickets for the opening ceremony to stay at home and avoid traveling throughout the city. According to Paes there will be many streets closed to both cars and pedestrians on Friday and throughout the days of competition “so that we can focus and allow athletes to arrive with predictability to their training sites and competition”.
Many of the competitions, such as the long-distance cycling on Saturday (August 6th) and cross country races will be conducted on city streets requiring extra security on those routes.