Host countries put a fortune into making their nations look as pristine as possible during the two-weeks of Olympic festivities. They fortify their infrastructure and enhance their stadiums, arenas and sports facilities to accommodate such a massive athletic event.
Increased security is also part of the expenditures a host city makes to ensure that their country looks like a paradise and crime doesn’t dampen the event.
However, the surrounding cities and villages where news cameras don’t venture during the Olympics, are often crime-ridden slums where athletes are told not to frequent.
In fact, the best advice for athletes is to “stay in Olympic Village." Brazil went through tremendous lengths to house the nearly 18,000 athletes, coaches and officials in the village’s 31 high-rise apartment buildings, which loom over the flat plain of Rio de Janeiro’s suburbs and are decorated in the flags of the countries of inhabiting athletes. Why not take advantage of it?
Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte and three of his United States swim teammates didn't heed the advice and were held up at gunpoint in Rio early Sunday, according to the United States Olympic Committee and confirmed by NBC.
Big surprise? Not at all.
According to nytimes.com, “The American swimmers and United States Olympic officials provided few details about what happened, and the state police said they were trying Sunday night to learn more about the episode.
Crime was already a top concern before the Rio Games began, as Brazil’s economic crisis deepened, pushing up unemployment and poverty rates. The Rio de Janeiro state government deployed a huge security force, and the streets surrounding the Olympic Park and the athletes’ village sometimes look like a military compound.
Nonetheless, crimes have occurred more frequently than at other recent Olympics. On the night of the opening ceremony, the chief of security was mugged at knifepoint. Two coaches for Australia’s rowing team were attacked and robbed in the Ipanema neighborhood, while some Olympians were robbed of belongings in the athletes’ village during a fire drill. Bullets have landed in the equestrian venue, and a bus carrying members of the news media was attacked, its windows shattered.”
Hidden behind the glitz and gold and glamour and bevy of record-breaking moments that TV has so effectively captured is the fact that the country of Brazil is suffering and when people starve, violence and crime spikes because money is needed for their families to survive.
Disease was a concern for some athletes before the Olympics began with Jason Day, the world’s No. 1 golfer withdrawing from Rio 2016 after citing fears over contracting the Zika virus.
However, crime has risen to the top of the list of concerns for Olympic officials because of the high-profile stature of the recent victims. Besides the gold-medal winning Lochte, the other swimmers robbed, according to a statement from the committee, were Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen.
“Their taxi was stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes’ money and other personal belongings,” a spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee said. “All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities.”
(Photo Credit: sportingnews.com)
Sounds like an intricate plot too. Something out of a movie. Guys in fake police uniforms pulling over a cab and getting paid. Hopefully it’s enough money to feed their families for months. I mean, stupid is as stupid does and Lochte and his boys were straight wildin.’
These athletes have to get a clue. Seriously. They must think it’s sweet out there in Brazil.
I get it. Some athletes feel immortal after winning and gaining celebrity and they feel they are untouchable. The smiling faces and cameras that litter their paths quickly disappear once that athlete leaves the Olympic Village and enters the areas where most people could care less about the Olympics facade because it isn’t helping to put money in their pockets or feed their children. A group of American swimmers has got to be one hell of a lick for one of Brazil’s desperate citizens.
As the story gained national attention, Lochte told NBC News that one of the men had put a cocked gun to his head.
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge — no lights, no nothing, just a police badge — and they pulled us over,” he said. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused — I was like, we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead, and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up. I was like, whatever. He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials.”
It’s a lesson learned to stay out of hoods you aren't familiar with. Ain’t nothing change across the globe. What were those guys thinking? Taking a cab anywhere alone... they must have had water on the brain to begin with. Fortunately, all they got was a gun to the head and a big scare. It could have been much worse.
For the most part, the government can protect the athletes inside the Village, although the Palestinian terrorists that kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, say otherwise.
But once an athlete steps off wonderland and onto the real deal soil and mixes with the indigenous people, they are leaving themselves open to getting robbed. There's no love. Just the Olympics. And when the horde of media and athletes and visitors depart from the country on August 21st, it will still be business as usual in Brazil. The same socio-economic problems will exist and Loche and crew just got a taste of that reality.