Security and transportation could be big problems for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer, says the state's acting governor, Francisco Dornelles, who argues the state must get its finances into order before the Olympic torch arrives.
“I am optimistic about the games, but I have to show the reality. We can make a great Olympics, but if some steps are not taken, it can be a big failure,” Governor Dornelles told the Rio-based O Globo newspaper on Monday.
The Olympics are set to begin on August 5, 38 days after the governor's interview. He says that proper funds are needed for the city to hire adequate police and finish the metro line meant to carry tourists to the main Olympic venue.
New plans for the city’s Metro Line 4, connecting Ipanema to Barra da Tijuca, anticipate opening on August 1, four days before the Games begin. During the games, the line will be available only to event ticket holders, athletes, and official press pass holders.
The city is waiting for a nearly 1 billion Brazilian real ($290 million) federal loan to finish construction. In addition, a 2.9 billion real ($860 million) allocation from the state to support police patrols has yet to reach the city, Dornelles said.
Brazil is feeling the worst recession in over two decades, largely because of the drop in prices of Brazil’s major commodities: oil, sugar, and coffee. Last year, the economy shrank by 3.8 percent, the biggest annual drop since 1990.
Some have turned to violent crime as the country’s unemployment rate continues to climb. Last month it reached 11.2 percent, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Last week, after a series of violent crimes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s government announced its plan to implement additional security measures beginning on July 1, to protect the 480,000 tourists expected to arrive for the games.
“We will guarantee safety at all access ways to the Olympics, in train stations and in the airports,” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said in a statement, according to the LA Times. “I can guarantee that Brazil will show the world a festival that is filled with joy, but also marked by tranquility.”
Mr. Jungmann said he will add officers to the 38,000 soldiers already scheduled for deployment during the event.
Despite the fears, Rio de Janeiro is safer than several American cities – including Detroit, Baltimore, and St. Louis – and celebrations such as Carnival and the 2014 World Cup have drawn international crowds to the city in the past. Over five million people attended FIFA’s “Fan Fests” in Brazil during the World Cup, the highest number of any host city, reported FIFA.
“Unfortunately, I do think that some tourists will be mugged during the Olympics. But overall, I think the majority will like the [Olympic] experience,” Juliana Mendonca, a 21-year-old resident of Rio de Janeiro, told the LA Times.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.