Kiwis travelling to Rio Olympics not fazed by corruption

By Susan Strongman

The Rio 2016 sign stands in front of the Olympic Village during a media tour in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 23, 2016. The organizers of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics have unveiled the athlete
The Rio 2016 sign stands in front of the Olympic Village during a media tour in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 23, 2016. The organizers of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics have unveiled the athlete

The corrupt underbelly of Brazil has come into the spotlight ahead of the Olympic Games, after a Kiwi was allegedly kidnapped by military police.

But travel agents say New Zealanders heading to Rio de Janeiro for the sporting event aren't put off by rising tensions in the city of more than 6 million.

New Zealander Jason Lee - who lives in Rio - was reportedly forced into a car by armed police and made to withdraw hundreds of dollars in cash from two ATMs.

A friend of Lee's who is also living in Rio, Around the Rings journalist Aaron Bauer, says though such incidents aren't normal, corruption is "endemic" in the city.

"Jay is one of my close friends, and I was dismayed when he told me this story."

Bauer said the part of Rio where they lived was usually "removed from this kind of stuff."

Lee, a Jiu-Jitsu athlete, said he was "threatened with arrest if I did not get in their private car and accompany [police] to two ATMs to withdraw a large sum of money for a bribe.

"I'm not sure what's more depressing, the fact this stuff is happening to foreigners so close to the Olympic Games or the fact that Brazilians have to live in a society that enables this absolute bullshit on a daily basis," he wrote on Facebook.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Safe Travel website warns of a high level of violent crime in Brazil - particularly in major cities.

"Violent crime can include mugging, armed robbery, home invasion and sexual assault and often involves firearms or other weapons.

"Street crime, including pickpocketing and bag-snatching, is also common, especially on public beaches and around festive periods such as Carnival," the website reads.

House of Travel marketing director Ken Freer said more Kiwis were asking if it was safe to travel to certain destinations, particularly Europe.

The travel agency had also seen some enquiries about safety in Rio.

"While we haven't had any cancellations or concern expressed since yesterday's event involving a Kiwi in Rio, in general Kiwis are becoming more security conscious and asking questions about safety as part of the booking process," Freer said.

"We are taking 1500 Kiwis to the Olympics this year including the team and support staff, and we have strong duty of care plans and processes in place to ensure all of our customers are well taken care of.

"Regardless of where Kiwis are travelling to, we advise all customers to register their details with Safe Travel prior to travel and to follow advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade," he said.

Flight Centre New Zealand's general manager of retail, Sue Matson, said that no customers had cancelled or changed their plans to head to Rio due to recent unrest.

"The majority of people due to travel for the Olympics will have booked months in advance, so we have not experienced any decrease in interest," Matson said.

"Kiwis are quite resilient travellers and many who will be travelling for the Olympics will be aware of the situation in Brazil and have prepared as necessary."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 08 Dec 2016 01:36:22 Processing Time: 477ms