By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday (June 19th), the security institutions involved with the safety of the Rio 2016 Games held a mock operation aimed at preparations for the opening ceremony of the Olympics, on August 5th. Unfortunately, on the same day, an embarrassing street robbery of an Australian Paralympic athlete occurred, making international news.
The Sunday test operations brought together 350 professionals and more than eighty vehicles, including motorcycles, cars and buses, as well as helicopters. The aim was to test the integrated operation that will be used during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The action involved the Military Police, Fire Department, Federal Police, Federal Highway Police, National Public Security Force and the Armed Forces, as well as agents CET-Rio and the Municipal Guard. “In addition to success on Sunday’s activity, we also tested the chains-of-command and control, the form of communication and the communication flow,” said the Special Projects Director of the Federal Police, Felipe Seixas.
At the same time, international news reported on an Australian Paralympic athlete, Liesl Tesch, who was robbed on Sunday morning in Flamengo. The sailor and wheelchair basketball player, competing in her seventh Paralympics, had her bicycle stolen at gunpoint.
“When it actually happens to you, it actually reinforces how dangerous this city is and how lucky we are to live in Australia,” she told the press. “My important message is to make it really clear, that this is a dangerous place and you’ve got to be on your guard.”
In May, three members of Spain’s Olympic sailing team were robbed at gunpoint in the bohemian hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa. “It was a very unpleasant experience,” team trainer Santi Lopez-Vazquez said. “There were five youths with two pistols. They took all the work equipment we were carrying at that time.”
The Spanish sailing federation wrote in a press release at the time, “lack of security in Rio is one of the points that worries the teams,” but added, “Fernando, Tara and Santi want to forget what happened as quickly as possible and concentrate completely and exclusively on the training.”
Despite these high-profile incidents, on June 1st, the city of Rio announced that in Flamengo, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and Meier, crime has dropped as much as eighty percent in some areas. Officials are crediting the decrease to the recent security program, Operação Segurança Presente (Operation Security Today).
All eyes will be on Rio in the coming months, as the 2016 Olympics, the first to be held in South America, are expected to bring over 500,000 international tourists to the country from August 5th to the 21st.