With athletes beginning to pour into Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games that begin in less than two weeks, officials admitted yesterday that only 12 of 31 buildings in the Olympic Village in which competitors will be housed have passed safety inspections.
Stress tests have not yet been conducted in every building because construction on the $1 billion complex of 17-story buildings was so far behind schedule, according to The Guardian. On Sunday, a "small fire" broke out where the Dutch team is supposed to stay, and Australian team officials found their quarters uninhabitable when their building failed a stress test.
"We decided to do a 'stress test' where taps and toilets were simultaneously turned on in apartments on several floors to see if the system could cope once the athletes are in-house," Kitty Chiller, the Australian Olympic Committee's chef de mission, said in a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald. "The system failed. Water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was 'shorting' in the electrical wiring."
The AOC also encountered plumbing and electrical issues that included "blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed and dirty floors in need of a massive clean."
By Monday evening, Chiller was saying that she expected all of her athletes could move from their temporary hotel rooms into the village on Wednesday. There is likely to be a kumbaya moment when Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, who flippantly told the Australians, "I almost feel like putting a kangaroo in front of their building to make them feel at home," hands over the keys.
Spokesman Mário Andrada told The Guardian that only 12 of the 31 tower blocks had been checked, although officials promised to have issues cleared up by Friday (NZT), a week and a day ahead of the Opening Ceremonies. "This should have been tested a long time ago," he said."But the problem is there, and now our task is to fix it as quickly as possible and to ensure everything is safe."
As for the fire in the Dutch rooms, Andrada explained that "a technician was working on a fuse box. There was a short circuit and a small fire, which he extinguished himself. The electricity was disconnected, and there was no need for an evacuation or to call firefighters."
Overall, only about 10 percent of the athletes who will compete have arrived. Patrick Sandusky, the chief external affairs officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, told The Guardian they are monitoring the situation. "As is the case with every Games, we're working with the local organizers to address minor issues and make sure the Village is ready for Team USA," he said.
Today, it was Belarus's turn to decry conditions in its quarters. It refused to move its athletes in because of health concerns over a lack of hot water and a failing sewage system and posted photos of a dirty shower and windows online. "There remains much for the Rio organizing committee to do so that the living conditions meet sanitary requirements," the country's Olympic committee told The Associated Press.