Rio Olympics: Australia boycott 'uninhabitable' athletes' village

Beds stand ready in the bedroom of an apartment of the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo / AP
Beds stand ready in the bedroom of an apartment of the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo / AP

The New Zealand Olympic team will move into the athletes' village in Rio today despite their Australian counterparts boycotting their accommodation due to major plumbing and electrical hazards.

Twenty-four hours before Australia's first athletes are expected to touch down in Brazil, the village continues to be plagued by problems.

Blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed and dirty floors have led the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) to deem their assigned apartment tower blocks uninhabitable.

Rio mayor Eduardo Paes reportedly told media that he plans to put a kangaroo in front of the Australian's building to make them feel at home.

New Zealand Olympic Committee Chef de Mission Rob Waddell says that while the village hadn't been completely ready when he arrived last week, the advance party had been well prepared, resilient and able to work together to deliver the apartments in time.

"We were disappointed the village wasn't as ready as it might have been when we arrived and it hasn't been easy. Our team has had to get stuck in to get the job done.

"We're pleased to say that thanks to the New Zealand team's planning, strong relationships and a bit of hard work we're ready for the first athletes to arrive today.

"Our next phase of set up is to visit the venues as the final overlay is completed and to check out transport and other facilities."

Members of the New Zealand rowing team were first to arrive overnight and didn't voice any major concerns.

Rowing gold medallist Mahe Drysdale posted an image on Instagram following his arrival with fellow rowers Eve Macfarlane and Zoe Stevenson - the first of the New Zealand team to arrive in the Olympic village.

"All is good, few finishing touches still to be made but when you arrive at 5am on opening day you can't expect it to be perfect," Drysdale said.

Stevenson didn't voice any concerns on her Twitter account.

The Aussies however had major issues with their surroundings.

Australian Olympic boss Kitty Chiller also revealed that in operations areas water has leaked through the ceiling, resulting in large puddles on the floor around cabling and wiring.

"Due to a variety of problems in the village including gas, electricity and plumbing, I have decided that no Australian team member will move into our allocated building," Chiller said in a statement.

"I will reassess the situation this evening.

"For over a week now AOC staff have been working long hours to get our section of the village ready for our athletes.

"For those athletes arriving in the next three days we have made alternative accommodation arrangements."

AOC staff had been due to move into the village on July 21 but have been forced to stay in nearby hotels.

Boxing and canoe slalom athletes, including Shelley Watts and Jessica Fox, are expected to arrive in Rio today.

Chiller and AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong have been attending nightly meetings on the issue and repeatedly expressed their concerns to the local organising committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Extra maintenance staff and more than one thousand cleaners have been deployed to fix the problems and clean up.

But the situation hit crisis point on Saturday night (Sunday NZT) when the AOC conducted a "stress test", simultaneously turning on taps and toilets in apartments over several floors.

"The system failed," Chiller said.

"Water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was 'shorting' in the electrical wiring."

The IOC has recommended plumbing stress tests and fire safety tests be carried out throughout the village, all of which National Olympic Committees (NOCs) have been invited to observe.

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