Rio de Janeiro beefs up security with Olympics a year away
RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio de Janeiro will employ more than twice the number of security personnel for the 2016 Olympics than London used in 2012 but authorities are not planning to occupy the city’s notorious favelas, the games’ organizers said on Thursday.
A total of 85,000 people will be involved, including law enforcement, private stewards and security guards.
“There has never been anything like this in the country and the key word is cooperation,” Andrei Augusto Rodrigues, Brazil’s point man on security, told reporters at an event held 53 weeks before South America’s first Olympic Games begin.
Rio de Janeiro is almost as famous for its violence as for its gorgeous beaches and picture postcard landmarks of Sugarloaf mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
But the number of homicides has fallen significantly in recent years, helped by a programme for community policing of many of the favelas, or shantytowns, that are closest to venues for the Summer Games.
Troops occupied at least one major favela during the 2014 World Cup but authorities said they were not planning to repeat that in 2016.
“In 2007 the city was the second most violent in the country and today it is the 23rd,” Rio state security chief Jose Mariano Beltrame said. “We are going to have a great games, just like the other events we’ve held here.”
The city will also create an integrated centre to prevent more organised attacks.
“The chance of terrorism exists the world over but we are not creating the centre because of that chance but because we think results will be better if we integrate our efforts,” General Luiz Felipe Linhares, the Defence Ministry’s special assistant for major events, told Reuters.
The possibility of protests is also a worry for the country’s unpopular government.
Millions of Brazilians took to the streets during the 2013 Confederations Cup in what started as protests against bus fare hikes but expanded to target spending on sports events at the expense of health, education and transport.
Although the Brazilian government said it would respect citizens’ right to protest peacefully during the World Cup it preemptively arrested opponents on the eve of the tournament. Most were later released without charge.
“Our men are focussed on intelligence actions so that we can anticipate the actions of vandals and violent people that would harm the event and the demonstration itself,” Rodrigues said of the games.
The Summer Olympic Games kick off on Aug. 5, 2016. -Reuters