Rio mayor criticizes Aussie ban on athletes visiting favelas
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Rio mayor Eduardo Paes has criticized the Australian Olympic Committee's decision to declare the city's favelas off limits for its 450 athletes during the Olympics in August.
''There is a lot of ignorance about Rio and Brazil, a certain drama of how things are,'' Paes told a news conference on Tuesday. ''Just between us, the Australian committee has been a source of aggressions to Brazil. And we love Sydney.''
There was backlash in Brazil after Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, a member of the IOC's coordination commission for the games, said in April 2014 that Rio's Olympic preparations were the worst he had experienced. Coates quickly backtracked to say he was confident Rio organizers would get the job done. But subsequent comments from Australian officials about security and infrastructure have been perceived by some in Brazil as overly critical.
AOC spokesman Mike Tancred told The Associated Press ''We love Brazil and we look forward to sharing the excitement - Rio has made tremendous progress with their games' preparations and ... we have no doubt Rio will deliver.''
Tancred said the decision by team leader Kitty Chiller to make Rio's hillside shantytowns and slums off limits for team members was based on feedback from a security expert who advised ''it would be impossible for us to allow our athletes to visit the favelas because we could not control visits involving a large number of athletes going to different places at different times.''
''Our athletes will certainly engage with the residents of Rio, and they will join in the fun on Copacabana beach,'' he said. ''But the favelas are areas we cannot control and the personal safety of our athletes must come first.''
Rio favelas are among the most violent areas of the city, but they also attract thousands of visitors on formal and informal tours. In recent years, some foreigners have chosen to stay in the safer favelas because of high price of accommodation near the beaches.
Despite ongoing concern over delays to the construction program for some infrastructure, Rio 2016 organizers have vowed that the Games will be delivered as promised.
AP Sports Writer Dennis Passa contributed to this report from Australia.