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Rio Olympic Village Unfit For Habitation, Aussies Athletes in Hotels

But Rio's mayor offers to put kangaroo out the front to make things better.

25/07/2016 6:11 AM AEST | Updated 25/07/2016 6:43 AM AEST
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Ricardo Moraes / Reuters
At least there are no side-by-side toilets a la Russia.

The Rio Olympic Village is unfit for human habitation, according to Australia's Rio Olympics Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller.

Chiller made a public statement overnight calling for the Rio organising committee to step up building works to combat leaking pipes, blocked toilets and exposed wiring throughout the Australian athletes' apartments.

The first Australian athletes were due to move into the village over the weekend. They included canoe slalom world champion Jess Fox, who is one of Australia's leading gold medal chances outside of the swimming events.

But Fox and other early arrivals have been forced into hotels, and all incoming Australian athletes will be forced to do likewise until major problems involving plumbing, electrical wiring, security, lighting and general cleanliness are fixed.

Chiller said given the precise nature of the athletes' regimens ahead of the Games, it would be unfair to place them in such a chaotic situation.

Chiller had some stern words for Rio organisers overnight:

"Due to a variety of problems in the Village, including gas, electricity and plumbing I have decided that no Australian Team member will move into our allocated building (B23) I will reassess the situation this evening.

For over a week now AOC staff have been working long hours to get our section of the Village ready for our athletes. Problems include blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed and dirty floors in need of a massive clean.

In operations areas water has come through the ceiling resulting in large puddles on the floor around cabling and wiring. We have raised our concerns on a daily basis with the Organising Committee and the IOC, especially at the daily Chef's meeting.

We are not alone, our friends from Team GB, New Zealand and others are experiencing the same problems in their accommodation. We have been pushing hard for a solution. Extra maintenance staff and over one thousand cleaners have been engaged to fix the problems and clean the Village but the faults, particularly the plumbing issues have not been resolved.

Chiller took matters into her own hands over the weekend and decided to do a "stress test", where taps and toilets were simultaneously turned on in apartments on several floors to see if the system could cope once the athletes are in-house. The system could not. Chiller again:

"The system failed. Water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was "shorting" in the electrical wiring. We were due to move into the Village on 21 July but we have been living in nearby hotels, because the Village is simply not safe or ready.

Our staff are continuing to setup as best they can for the arrival of the athletes. For those athletes arriving in the next three days we have made alternative accommodation arrangements.

We welcome a decision by the IOC to recommend to the Organising Committee that stress tests be carried out throughout the Olympic Village. The IOC has recommended 1. A plumbing stress test and 2. A fire safety test.

Those tests will include all floors, all rooms, all fixtures, sinks, showers and toilets. As well as fire alarms, lighting in stairwells and exits. Representatives from National Olympic Committees (NOCs) have been invited to observe the test.

Talk of inadequate facilities has become a regular feature of pre-Olympics coverage at just about every modern Games. At the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, there were complaints of brown tap water and other issues in the newly constructed accommodation in both the Athletes' Village and official media accommodation.

Those Games ended up running smoothly and for the record, this reporter's accommodation was fine. But the Rio complaints seem like the real deal.

Ricardo Moraes / Reuters
Not as nice as it looks.

"From an AOC point of view, [Long-serving Australian Olympic Committee chief] John Coates, has always stressed that for a Games to be successful, you need to get three things right: the Athletes' Village, the transport and the food," Chiller said overnight.

"There is much work to be done at the Village and we appreciate the efforts of the IOC and the RIO Organising Committee to "push things along" and solve the problems."

Chiller's tough words have caused yet another blow-up in relations between the Australian team and Brazil's mayor, Eduardo Paes. When Chiller declared Rio's favelas off limits to Australian athletes earlier this year, the mayor said:

"There is a lot of ignorance about Rio and Brazil, a certain drama of how things are. Just between us, the Australian committee has been a source of aggressions to Brazil."

Paes overnight said "I almost feel like putting a kangaroo in front of their building to make them feel at home".

The Village is a series of tall apartment towers constructed specifically for the Games, in the Barra da Tijuca area of southern Rio, adjacent to the main Olympic Park precinct.

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