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With the Rio games just days away, athletes are finding the Olympic village “uninhabitable”

Reuters/Ricardo Moraes
Ready or not, here they come.
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Earlier this month, Rio 2016 organizers proclaimed the city was ready to welcome the world. Not quite.

As athletes from around the world began settling into the Olympic village in recent days, they started discovering clogged-up drains, electrical outages, and water from leaky pipes cascading down the walls of their temporary residences.

The head of the Argentine Olympic committee called the state of two of their five assigned floors “uninhabitable” (Spanish) and moved athletes to nearby hotels. The Australian delegation, too, was lodging athletes elsewhere because the installations were “simply not safe or ready,” according to Australian team’s chief Kitty Chiller.

The Italians are staying put but they aren’t waiting around for help. The country’s Olympic committee has hired its own plumbers and electricians to get the Italian athletes’ digs in shape (link in Italian). The games open on August 5.

The building snafus are yet another instance of Olympic disarray that is detracting attention from the games. The bays where sailing and swimming competitions were scheduled to take place have not been cleaned as they were supposed to. In April, a bike bridge built ahead of the games toppled over, killing at least two people. And that’s without getting into the political and economic turmoil that is convulsing the country.

Olympics organizers have downplayed the apartment malfunctions, saying that they will be quickly repaired. Rio’s mayor jokingly said that he would produce a kangaroo if that would help the Australian athletes feel welcome.

“Every Olympic village, because of their magnitude, needs some adjustments until it becomes perfect,” Rio 2016 president Carlos Arthur Nuzman said over the weekend. “The important thing is that everything will be resolved before the games, without disturbing the athletes.”

But at least one longtime Olympics participant says the glitches at Rio’s village are the worst he’s seen in the last seven games. “It’s not concentrated in a single building, but is a generalized problem (Spanish),” Cayetano Cornet, chief of the Spanish delegation, said in an interview with sports newspaper Marca.

Venezuelans, now facing dismal conditions in their own country, have also found grounds to complain about what they’re seeing in Rio, including dust and faulty toilets. “It really hasn’t been the best way to start,”Joseba Barreda, the head of Venezuela’s Olympic delegation, told newspaper El Universal (Spanish.) He said he was considering delaying the arrival of the delegation’s remaining athletes for 48 hours to give workers more time to fix the problems.

The Belarus delegation, on its website, is documenting the state of its lodgings, posting photos of dirty windows and clogged-up shower drains. It doesn’t look very welcoming.

But some athletes are taking the complaints in stride.

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