With the 2016 Rio Olympics opening in just a couple of days, you’d expect that all the preparations have been made to ensure the success of the Games. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The much-awaited event is plagued by several glitches, ranging from unabated crime to filthy waters to the dreaded Zika virus. While the organizers could claim that those have been problems for a long time and aren’t exactly their fault, it seems that they’re also making a mess of things that are inarguably under their control.
Take for example the Olympic Village, where the athletes, officials, and trainers will stay during the Games. Given its location in Barra de Tijuca, an affluent neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro (think of it as their BGC), you’d think everything would be smooth sailing.
In fact, the Rio Olympics’ website even boasted of bringing in “the latest creature comforts” for the athlete’s accommodations, which will be outfitted with a state-of-the-art gym, a beauty salon, a large recreation area, and several refreshment and snack kiosks. “Athletes staying in the village will be treated like kings. They are, after all, the stars of the show,” reads the press release.
However, in an article published on The Guardian less than two weeks before the start of the games, the organizers themselves admitted that 19 of the 31 buildings in the Olympic Village haven’t passed safety tests yet.
Team Australia was the first to decry the sorry state of the Olympic Village, with Australian Olympic Committee chef de mission Kitty Chiller calling it “uninhabitable” in a statement. “Problems include blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed and dirty floors in need of a massive clean,” she said.
Chiller also said they did a “stress test,” where they turned on faucets and flushed toilets in several apartments at the same time to see if the plumbing system can handle having so many people at once. The result: “water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was ‘shorting’ in the electrical wiring.” Great Britain and New Zealand contingents were facing the same problems, she added.
A small fire caused by a short circuit also broke out in the Dutch team’s accommodations. It was quickly extinguished, but this was followed just a few days later by another fire in the basement of the Australian team’s building, which had the Aussies evacuating.
Australian NBA star Andrew Bogut took to Twitter to air his frustration at his shoddy digs, complaining that he can’t fit on his single bed and his bathroom doesn’t have a shower curtain.
It’s not just Australia: The Greek delegation have also described their accommodation as “tragic", an adjective you have to take extra seriously coming from the guys who came up with the word “tragedy” in the first place.
“From the outside it is like a jewel, but inside it is like a construction site. The plumbing is out of order, water runs everywhere, there are no mirrors in the bathrooms… Consider that we had to move to another floor because ours was flooded,” said Isidros Kouvelos, the head of the Greek mission and the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, during an interview with Athina 9.84 radio station.
“What we have come up against is unprecedented, and of course we never faced anything like it in London or in Beijing, and certainly not in Athens. Workers have abandoned their work at the (Olympic) Village because they have not been paid and some of them have even made off with construction materials,” Kouvelos added.
The Indian hockey team, meanwhile, complained that their lodging didn’t have enough furniture for all the athletes. "For athletes who have to perform at top-level during a longer period of the Olympics we need proper chairs and tables in the apartments for 6 persons. Actually there are only 2 chairs in each apartment,” chief coach Roelant Oltmans was reported by Indian news website Firstpost.com as saying.
You’d think these are just #FirstWorldProblems, but nope. The Philippine team also pointed out some glaring problems. “The village looks nice as expected,” said swimming coach Archie Lim said in an interview with ABS-CBN.com. “But it isn’t as good as some of the previous athlete’s villages we’ve stayed in. The rooms are pretty small, some parts of the condo are unfinished, and we have no cold water."
“Many units have leaking pipes and low water pressure making it a problem for those staying in the higher floors. And beds are too small and not very comfortable,” added chef de mission Jose Romasanta.
Even the Olympic media village wasn’t spared from construction woes: in a video posted on New Zealand new site newshub.co.nz, reporter Jeff McTainsh revealed that the shower in his bathroom was just a hole in the wall...
...while journalist Lewis Hampton showed just how bad the flooding in his C.R. was.
Eduardo Paes also revealed that several of the athletes’ apartments were vandalized a few weeks before the start of the Games. Officials are likewise suspecting that the village is deliberately being sabotaged by the disgruntled, unfairly paid workers.
Brazilian news website O Dia also reported Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes as saying that several of the athletes’ apartments were vandalized a few weeks before the start of the games. Officials are likewise suspecting that the village is deliberately being sabotaged by the disgruntled, unfairly paid workers.
It’s so bad, the Daily Mail reported that the man in charge of the athlete’s village, Mario Cilenti, was sacked at the end of July presumably after his office was barraged with complaints from a few thousand angry athletes.
So if you’re an Olympian making your way to Rio, avoid the athletes’ village and take your cue from Team USA’s men’s basketball team, which have chartered a heavily guarded luxury cruise ship that guarantees comfort for the NBA stars.