Latin America & Caribbean

Rio 2016: Brazil's interim leader Temer dismisses worries

Brazil's interim President Michel Temer gestures during a meeting with defence officials regarding the security of the 2016 Rio Olympics, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, May 16, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Interim President Michel Temer says Brazil awaits visitors "with open arms"

Brazil's interim President Michel Temer has written an open letter to international media reassuring readers that his country is ready to host the Olympic Games in a month's time.

Mr Temer says Brazil has put together "a solid security programme" to ensure visitors and athletes are safe.

He also dismissed "rumours" of a possible Zika outbreak.

The letter comes amid reports of athletes being robbed and pollution at the Olympic sailing venue.

'Peace and tranquillity'

Mr Temer says Brazil will deploy 85,000 members of the security forces "to ensure that the sporting events take place in an atmosphere of absolute peace and tranquillity".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Police have been carrying out security drills at the venues to prepare for any eventuality

That is double the number of those deployed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Two weeks ago, the Australian Olympic Committee called on Brazil to deploy extra security after Paralympic athlete Liesl Tesch had her bike stolen at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro.

Tesch is not the only athlete to have become the victim of crime.

In May, three members of the Spanish Olympics sailing team were robbed at gunpoint while walking through Rio.

The perception by some visitors of Rio as a dangerous city has not been helped by police protesting about late payments and the high number of officers killed in the line of duty.

On Monday 28 of June and again on 4 July, passengers arriving at Rio's international airport were greeted by off-duty officers holding a sign reading "Welcome to hell. Police and fire fighters don't get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police officers and fire fighters have been protesting at Rio's international airport

One officer taking part in the protest said that visitors had "been conned and we too have been conned".

"You have to understand there is no public security," he told told Agence France Press news agency.

In his letter, Mr Temer says that Brazil has ample experience hosting "mega-events on an international scale" and cites the 2014 World Cup and the Pan-American Games among others as past successes.

"And now another success is on its way," the interim leader, who took over in May after Brazil's Congress voted in favour of holding impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, says.

'Zika rumours'

Referring to concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus, Mr Temer dismisses "rumours about the possibility of a tropical disease outbreak during the Games".

A number of athletes have pulled out of the Games out of fear of contracting the Zika virus.

Zika: What you need to know

Rio 2016: Mosquito in the ointment

The latest to cancel his participation is Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama. World number one golfer Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have also pulled out.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rory McIlroy is among the athletes who have decided not to travel to Rio out of fear of contracting Zika

Mr Temer says that the "risk of Zika infection during the Games is practically non-existent" and that "tourists can rest assured the health conditions during the Olympic Games will be favourable".

The interim leader also highlights the "legacies for the entire country" which he says the Games have created, including "world class facilities for both beginners and high-performance athletes".

But Olympic sailors complained on Monday that their boats had been turned brown by an oil slick in Guanabara Bay, where the sailing events will be held.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Protests were held in Guanabara Bay on Sunday to draw attention to pollution

The complaints came just days after police said that body parts had washed up on a beach just metres from where beach volleyball matches will be held during the Olympics.

Mr Temer ends his letter by assuring readers that "Brazil is ready to welcome you....and also ready to put on a great show".

Later on Tuesday, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and Brazil's Olympic committee boss Carlos Nuzman are due to give a news conference in which they are expected to echo Mr Temer's words.

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