An Olympic war of words has broken out over Australia’s discontent with the athletes accommodation provided at the Rio Games - prompting the city’s mayor to suggest installing a kangaroo could make them feel more at home.
The Australian Olympic Committee is refusing to check in its athletes, complaining about the gas, electricity and plumbing. Australia’s chef de mission in Rio de Janeiro, Kitty Chiller, bemoaned “blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring” and dirty floors that require a “massive clean”.
It is less than a fortnight before the opening ceremony.
But Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, defended the facilities, saying the digs were nicer than what Sydney laid on for the 2000 Games. He added:
“I almost feel like putting a kangaroo in front of their building to make them feel at home.”
Australia’s first athletes, boxers and canoeists were due to move into the village in the Barra da Tijuca area this weekend.
Chiller, who said that delegations from Britain, New Zealand and other countries were having similar problems, said issues had been flagged up in advance but had not been addressed fully. Aussie athletes have been bunking up in hotels as organisers attempt to resolve outstanding concerns.
“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,” said Chiller after rooms were ‘stress tested’.
Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the local organizing committee, said organisers are aware of the problems with some rooms, particularly affecting teams from Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. He said 500 workers have been tasked with tackling the faults. He said:
“There are some electrical issues and some leaks. It’s one of those things with new buildings, but it should not have happened.”
Workers were having to put the finishing touches to stadiums used in the Brazil World Cup two years’ ago at the eleventh hour. At the last Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, accommodation was not completed in time.