Rio Olympics: Mayor Eduardo Paes apologises for mugging of Liesl Tesch and Sarah Ross in Rio

Liesl Tesch, from Woy Woy, was riding a bike with a team official when they were confronted by two men. Photo: Rohan ThomsonBrazil should be embarrassed about Rio crime: CommentParalympian Liesl Tesch and official Sarah Ross robbed at gunpoint in RioRio state declares financial emergency, requests funding for Olympics

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has lamented the mugging of Australian Paralympian Liesl Tesch and team official Sarah Ross in the city, issuing an apology at a press conference.

Fronting the media to present an account of the city’s Olympic budget on Tuesday, Mr Paes said the security incident which reverberated around the world was “unacceptable”.

Tesch, a sailing gold medallist, and Ross were robbed at gunpoint while riding their bikes in Rio’s Flamengo on Sunday morning. Tesch described the incident as “absolutely horrific”.

It was the second robbery involving Olympic sailors. In May, two Spanish sailors and a coach were robbed at gunpoint by children while in Rio for training.

“There were five children with two pistols. To me they have taken all the instrumental work that we had at the time. It was a very unpleasant experience,” Lopez-Vazquez said on the Spanish Sailing Federal website at the time.

The Australian Olympic team’s Chef de Mission, Kitty Chiller, said she had written to organisers asking them to deploy some of their 100,000-strong security force severals weeks early to protect athletes in the lead-up to the event.

But Mr Paes denied receiving such a letter. According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the security of the city is the responsibility of the state government, not Mr Paes.

“We know the security challenges of Rio. I am certain they will be better during the Games,” he told reporters.

Asked about the litany of bad news out of the city, Mr Paes acknowledged “the city of Rio is a city with problems”. He said that Rio, with its endemic violence, extreme inequality and woeful public services, mustn’t be compared with former Olympic host cities in developed nations.

Instead pre-Olympic Rio should be compared with the city now, he said highlighting improvements in the seaside metropolis’ chronic gridlock. He said much remained to be done, but suggested that the major problem areas – such as security and the failure to make good on Olympic promises to clean up Rio’s human sewage-filled waterways – were those under the state government’s responsibility.

“The Olympics were never a panacea for the city of Rio,” he said.

Last week, Mr Paes declared a state of financial emergency for the city, hoping to trigger further investment from the state and federal governments for the games.

On Tuesday, he insisted that both governments had contributed relatively little of the 7 billion reais ($2.75 billion) budget for infrastructure projects for the games. The city was responsible for the lion’s share of the infrastructure budget.

“People have the impression that the federal government is giving bucketfuls of money” to Rio for the Olympics, he said, adding that was a “lie”.

The city’s finances are in good health, a city statement issued on its official website said: “The city is responsible for 93 per cent of the new Olympic-related infrastructure with the exception of energy supply costs. With the exception of the velodrome, all building works are 100 per cent finalised and have been delivered.

“Unlike London which hosted the Games in 2012, Rio has always demonstrated a commitment to avoid unnecessary expenses. While the English [sic] capital spent about 50 billion reais  just on the stadiums and the organising committee, Rio spent 13.5 billion reais less on the project overall. The London Olympic Stadium alone cost 12 billion reais. Rio spent the equivalent in all the works required at the Olympic Park, Deodoro Sports Complex, golf course and renovation of the Olympic Stadium Engenhao. ​

“In addition, only 20 per cent of the London Games investments came from the private sector, while in Rio that number is 80 per cent.”

Mr Paes, whose Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) is caught in a sprawling corruption probe, had been rumoured to harbour presidential ambitions. But local news reports say his party has ruled out a possible Paes presidential run in 2018 after a series of recent scandals tarnished his image.

with AP, Reuters

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