The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) says it will make further upgrades to already extensive security procedures after the “disturbing” robbery of Paralympian Liesl Tesch and official Sarah Ross at gunpoint in Brazil.
The 47-year-old Tesch – who has featured for Australia at six Paralympic Games – and Ross were bike riding at 7.30am (local time) on Sunday when, in broad daylight, they were confronted by two men.
One of the men pointed a gun at Tesch and asked for money, she said, before adding that several people saw the incident but did not help.
“I think he said dinero … which means money. So I lifted up my shirt and said: ‘Look, I don’t have any money’,” said Tesch, who is a sailor and a wheelchair basketball player.
“He then said something else and pointed the gun at me and pushed me in the shoulder.
“I just toppled over with my bicycle and he just grabbed my bicycle. The other guy was wrestling the bicycle from our team physio. It was absolutely horrific.”
Tesch said that Rio de Janeiro was “a dangerous place” and that Aussies had to be “on your guard” in the city.
This isn’t ‘isolated’: Chiller
Australian Olympic team chef de mission Kitty Chiller said she was very concerned about the safety issues in the city.
“The incident involving the Paralympic sailing team over the weekend was extremely concerning and disturbing. It’s not an isolated incident,” Chiller said in a statement.
“There’s been several incidents over the last couple of months, involving our team members and other Australians in Rio.
“It’s got to a point now, though, that we are demanding that steps and measures are taken to ensure that all our team members who go to Rio for the Olympic Games next month will be safe.”
Chiller also acknowledged that recent changes to the AOC’s security policy had been made in light of Tesch’s horrifying ordeal.
“We have very strict security protocols in place,” she said.
“We have now decided to engage and work with a private security firm in Rio as well, to basically have them on standby, should we need our own private security forces at Games time.
“We’ve also decided in the last few days … the initial intention was to brief just team leaders when they come into the village.
“We will now be having face-to-face briefings with every single team member when they arrive in Rio about safety and security.”
Australia’s protocols around personal safety and security in Rio are:
- Team members should always travel in groups, with a minimum of three or four;
- Females should never travel alone, even if they are in groups;
- Darkness is to be avoided;
- Team members are asked to stick to visible, known and open thoroughfares; and
- If confronted, all team members are to comply and hand over whatever they have on them and do not resist or fight.
Aussies ‘shaken’ after incident
Chiller added that she was “demanding” the amount of security forces in operation at the Games, said to be approximately 100,000, be reviewed, and that the forces be mobilised earlier than first planned.
The 100,000 includes state and federal police, military and private security forces.
The chef de mission of Australia’s Paralympic team, Kate McLoughlin, said her team were “shaken” by the incident.
“They’re a little bit shaken,” McLoughlin told the ABC.
“The reality of the situation over in Rio has come home and that’s not good.
“We have an Australian Federal Police officer embed in our team, which is a fantastic advantage for us so we’ll work with him in the coming days just to ascertain whether this does change anything in terms of our plans.”
The issue of safety is just one of many plaguing the build-up to the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.