Sailing ramp collapses and village chief fired days before Olympics start

Three days before the opening of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the main ramp of the sailing venue has collapsed, and the man behind the athletes’ village has been fired, raising concerns about health and safety.

Bad weather was blamed for the failure of a temporary ramp at the Marina da Gloria. A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee was quoted by The Guardian as saying "it would be wrong to make a great deal" of the incident, and "in the run-up to the Games, things happen".

But while Rio has not yet witnessed any games-stopping catastrophes in relation to Olympic venues and facilities, the event has been dogged by bad news, concentrated most recently on the athletes’ village and Rio’s filthy water.

Better off on a boat?

Today it emerged that members of the US Olympic basketball team, some of whom are millionaire NBA stars in their day jobs, have rented space on a luxury cruise ship to avoid the less salubrious athletes’ village.

The Independent reported that Mario Cilenti, who was in charge of construction at the athletes’ village, was fired after a number of rooms were incomplete across the 3,600-apartment complex.

Two weeks ago, it was announced that 19 out of 31 buildings in the village had not yet passed safety tests, with reports of gas and water leaks, broken lifts and holes in the ceiling.

Eduardo Paes, Rio’s mayor, said: "The organising committee took charge for three months and there were extremely serious management problems. During those three months people intruded into the apartments and a lot of things were stolen."

An aerial shot of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer (Wikimedia Commons/Klaus with K)

Kitty Chiller, the team chief for the Australian contingent, said the accommodation is "simply not safe or ready" and said the team would stay in hotels until problems were rectified.

CNN reported that Australian athletes had since moved back into the village, but were robbed while out of their rooms during a recent fire evacuation. Items stolen included a laptop and shirts designed for protection against the Zika virus.

Kitty Chiller said: "When I arrived midway through the evacuation, I saw three fire marshals walking out with our team shirts."

Don’t swallow the water

Meanwhile, Rio’s polluted seafront is causing extra concern.

Raw sewage pours into the bay, prompting the World Health Organisation last month to warn sailors and other aquatic athletes to stay out of the water if they can, and to avoid swallowing any if they can’t, and to cover up cuts to avoid infections.

Tests in June showed that the Olympic rowing lagoon had a dangerously high levels of viruses that can cause infections of the lung, stomach and intestine, according to reports.

As Brazil wrestles with economic and political turmoil, the public image of the games have been beset by other problems.

The death toll for construction workers at Rio reached 11 in March this year, and two members of the public were killed when a coastal cycle path was destroyed by waves.

Other problems include halted funding for venues following "evidence of fraud", and corruption allegations for boxing matches.

Top image: A ramp built to launch sailing craft at the Marina da Gloria sailing venue (Getty Images/Buda Mendes)

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