Live from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Fast Facts on Security and Health Preparedness for the 2016 Olympics

Monday Aug. 01, 2016

Live from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Fast Facts on Security and Health Preparedness for the 2016 Olympics

rio-2016-olympics-update

Executive Summary

With just four days until Opening Ceremonies on Aug. 5, preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games appear to be on schedule (map).  While security, civil unrest, transportation, and health concerns persist, Brazilian authorities have implemented the city's security and transportation plans adequately.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banner adorns the Olympic Park in Barra de Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (photo: A.Matthews)

 

Key Judgments:

  • Rio de Janeiro's Olympic security plan is fully implemented and constitutes a drastic departure from typical security protocols in the city.
     
  • Protests could coincide with the Games and cause disruptions, but large-scale demonstrations are unlikely.
     
  • Road closures and restrictions will likely cause major transportation disruptions throughout the city.
     
  • By taking adequate precautions, visitors can significantly reduce the risk of contracting insect- and water-borne illnesses.

 

Fast Facts: Security

The security infrastructure is in place throughout Rio de Janeiro and the other five soccer host cities. Forces are patrolling the streets, venues, and critical infrastructure.

The most visible security presence in the city is the armed forces; personnel are heavily armed, and are mostly patrolling coastline and venue areas. The Military Police are also out in force throughout the city. At key tourist destinations, security personnel are supplemented by Municipal Guards. Helicopters and security vehicles are visible on an hourly basis canvassing nearly every part of the city.

 

Security Personnel:

  • 85,000 total
  • 48,000 in Rio de Janeiro
  • Military reinforcements and National Guard
  • Military, Civil, Federal Police
 

Crime Update

The lead-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games has been fraught with violent incidents affecting not only Brazilians, but also foreigners in town for the Games. In addition to the armed robberies involving the Spanish sailing team in Santa Teresa and an Australian Paralympic athlete in Aterro do Flamengo, reports surfaced July 28 involving tourists being robbed.

Despite the heavy security presence, there are still many incidents of opportunistic crime throughout the city. Along the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblón, there may well be criminals waiting to target unsuspecting foreigners.

 

Crime in Rio de Janeiro:

Rio de Janeiro city has high levels of street crime, statistically. During Carnival, when approximately 1 million tourists enter the country, crime levels spike. Similarly, crime rates are likely to increase during the Olympics.

The most common crimes include purse-snatching and pickpocketing. Armed robberies occur citywide, even along the streets of higher-income areas like Copacabana and Ipanema.

Homicides tend to be concentrated in the city's favelas* due to violence between rival gangs and shootouts with police forces during operations.

*Favelas: Shantytowns or slums that tend to have increased levels of crime. In Rio de Janeiro, these communities are interspersed throughout the city, often adjacent to higher-income neighborhoods.

 

Advice to Reduce Risk

Avoid wearing flashy jewelry and clothing, including sports watches and brand-named clothing. Remain vigilant at night and around bars and clubs.  Visitors are advised to restrict nighttime movements to the hotel and tourist sectors of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblón, and Barra da Tijuca, as these areas will have an increased security presence. When possible, travel with at least one other person or in a group. Criminals may attempt to steal purses and wallets in crowded areas and on the beaches; accordingly, keep these items secure. Minimize the use of cellphones, tablets, and laptops in public locations, as criminals are known to target these items. Step into restaurants, stores, or hotel lobbies if you need to use the phone. If you are confronted by thieves, surrender your belongings quickly; criminals will often not hesitate to use force.

ATMs located inside secure buildings, such as hotel lobbies, are preferable to ATMs on the street. Do not use ATMs that look like they have been tampered with, as credit card cloning devices are commonly put on ATMs in Brazil. Ensure that all credit or debit card transactions are executed in your presence; if possible, use cash to reduce the risk of card cloning.

 

Terrorism Update

On July 21, the Federal Police arrested 12 Brazilian nationals on charges of preparing for a terrorist attack during the Games. Another individual was arrested in Rio de Janeiro (Novo Iguaçu neighborhood) on July 28 for social media posts sympathetic to the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations.

The Integrated Anti-Terrorism Center (Ciant) in Brazil has collaborated with foreign partners to share intelligence and build anti-terrorism strategies. More than 11,000 people have been denied Olympic credentials by Ciant due to "security concerns"; the credentials allow increased access to Olympic venues and events.

While an orchestrated terror attack poses a low threat in Brazil, as there has not been a history of terrorism or terror organizations in the country, "lone-wolf" attacks are possible. Such incidents are difficult to predict and prevent.

 

Civil Unrest

The possibility of civil unrest during the Games remains a security concern. Over the past few months, it appeared that the ongoing impeachment process that will likely remove President Dilma Rousseff as president would coincide with the Olympics. However, over the past few weeks, updated estimates regarding the impeachment trial dates indicate that the final vote is likely to occur after the end of the Olympics. While several other smaller steps in the process will likely occur in conjunction with the Games, they are unlikely to generate widespread civil unrest.

Some groups against the current administration of interim President Michel Temer, such as Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (Landless Workers' Movement, MST), could stage protests. Protests held by workers' groups and land activists have ended in clashes in the past. If these groups decide to demonstrate, they could cause disruptions to transportation; security forces are likely to use force to repress any large-scale movement that could cause severe problems for the Olympics.

Strikes, however, could significantly hamper transportation and operations during the Games. Metro workers have protested what they contend are unsafe conditions along the extension metro line 4; if the workers decide to strike, key public transportation routes that are intended to reduce traffic congestion could be unavailable. Taxi drivers have carried out disruptive strikes and "drive-slow" campaigns to protest ride-sharing apps; however, it is unlikely that they will hold these events during the Olympics, since there will likely be an overwhelming demand for their services.

 

IMPEACHMENT TIMELINE

July 29-Aug. 1

Special Commission rapporteur elaborates his findings.

Aug. 2-4

Special Commission debates and votes on the rapporteur's findings. If approved, the process returns to the Senate.

Aug. 9-10

Senate will begin discussions and hold first vote on whether to send Rousseff to the final judgment vote.

Aug. 25-27

Prospective date for the final judgment vote in the Senate.

 

Strikes, however, could significantly hamper transportation and operations during the Games. Metro workers have protested what they contend are unsafe conditions along the extension metro line 4; if the workers decide to strike, key public transportation routes that are intended to reduce traffic congestion could be unavailable. Taxi drivers have carried out disruptive strikes and "drive-slow" campaigns to protest ride-sharing apps; however, it is unlikely that they will hold these events during the Olympics given the likely overwhelming demand for both taxi and ride-sharing car services.

 

Advice in the Event of Civil Unrest

Avoid any rallies or protests due to the potential for clashes with security forces. Follow any instructions given by security forces, and always carry proper identification. If a protest begins nearby, leave the area immediately. In the event of clashes between police and demonstrators or between rival protest groups, seek shelter in a safe location, preferably away from government buildings. Register with your diplomatic mission for the duration of your stay in Rio de Janeiro, and keep consulate contact information readily available in case of an emergency.

 

Fast Facts: Transportation

Significant traffic restrictions are in place to facilitate the flow of traffic for Olympic delegations and spectators. However, the transportation infrastructure in the city will be heavily taxed during the Games, despite statewide holidays on Aug. 5, 18, and 22, and school recesses that coincide with the Olympics.

Plan transportation ahead of time, and allow for significant additional time to transit the city. If traveling from Rio's city center or South Zone to Barra da Tijuca, expect congested highways and lengthy delays. While transportation to Barra da Tijuca will likely be the most onerous, travel to any of the venues could face delays. If your chosen transportation option does not have access to the "fast lanes" (Olympic priority and/or dedicated lanes), be aware than distances typically taking 30 minutes could take several hours due to the intense traffic expected in the city.

If using public transportation, consider purchasing a RioCard, the official transportation card of the Olympics. There are several options that would allow easier transport via BRS, BRT, metro, and Supervia train lines.  With a RioCard, passengers can ride on any of the Olympics-specific BRT buses or other public transportation at any time during the Games in accordance with the card package purchased. The use of public transportation for the Olympics is not limited to the days and times of ticketholders' events.

 

Getting around the City:

Recommended:

  • Official Olympics transportation if with a delegation
  • Authorized, official taxis arranged through hotels, a trusted colleague, and/or official dispatch service
  • Private car 

Other options:

  • BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) lines
  • Metro lines (1, 2, and 4)
  • BRS (Rio City Buses)
  • Supervia trains
  • Personal vehicles*
  • Ride-sharing app services**

* Parking will be extremely limited, if available at all.
** Ride-sharing app services are widely used in Brazil; however, personal safety is the responsibility of every traveler. Ensure you feel safe with the transportation option you choose.

 

Advice while Transiting

Allow additional driving time if operating in Rio de Janeiro through Aug. 22; road closures and detours will almost certainly contribute to congestion during the Games. Plan driving routes in advance to avoid major disruptions. Arrange taxis or private car services in advance; high demand may reduce the availability of such services. Verify public transportation options before departure, as there will likely be periodic schedule changes and line disruptions. Stow valuables and personal belongings in safe places in cars. Keep windows rolled up if driving, as criminals could try to snatch personal items from open windows.

 

Transportation Resources

Bus Rapid Transit - BRT: www.brtio.com

Cidade Olimpica Traffic Changes Calendar: www.cidadeolimpica.rio

Metro Rio: www.metrorio.com.br

Rio de Janeiro City Buses - BRS (Portuguese): www.rioonibus.com

Rio de Janeiro Live Traffic Map: www.g1.globo.com

SuperVia Urban Trains: www.supervia.com.br

 

Fast Facts: Health

Immunizations

  • Ensure routine immunizations are up to date, including tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chickenpox), and influenza. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and typhoid vaccinations are also recommended.
     
  • Remember that there will be people from all over the world attending the Olympics, possibly bringing infectious diseases not currently endemic to Brazil.
     
  • It is flu season in Brazil; be sure to get vaccinated or get a booster vaccine if appropriate.
     
  • Yellow fever vaccinations may be required; some countries require yellow fever vaccinations if a traveler has visited Brazil. Be sure to check requirements before departure.

Insect-borne Diseases

  • Insect-borne diseases include chikungunya, dengue fever, Zika virus, malaria, and yellow fever.
     
  • Rio de Janeiro State had its highest reported rates of Zika virus in May; the government has not released the most recent data for June-July.
     
  • July and August are considered part of the winter season in Brazil, meaning that there tend to be fewer mosquitoes. 

 

Water- and Foodborne Diseases

  • Despite the existence of water treatment and distribution facilities in Brazil, water quality can vary.
     
  • Street vendors, raw meat dishes, and unpasteurized dairy products can harbor bacterial and parasitic pathogens.
     
  • Contamination in Brazil's coastal and inland waters continues to be a concern; pollutants and contaminants often present in these waters can endanger human health.

 

Prevention

General guidelines:

  • Drink bottled water.
  • Wash raw produce before consumption.
  • Avoid raw meat dishes and street vendors.
  • Practice safe sex.

Prevention

Insect-bite precautions:

  • When possible, wear long-sleeve shirts, trousers, and socks.
  • Use insect protection that contains DEET or picaridin.
  • Consider malaria prophylaxis and yellow fever vaccination, if appropriate.
 

Preparation for Medical Situations

  • Carry a medical card that includes information on your current medications, allergies, and emergency contact numbers.
     
  • Ensure you have enough medicine for your trip, plus one week.
     
  • Take a basic first-aid supply kit with you.
     
  • Have allergy and diarrhea medication on hand.
     
  • If you have a chronic condition, locate the nearest "center of excellence" facility prior to departure.
     

Medical Centers of Excellence

These facilities have been chosen for their known international reputation.

 

 

iJET Americas Intelligence Analyst Abbott Matthews is on the ground in Brazil to cover the Rio 2016 Olympic Games throughout August. Stay tuned for related iJET alerts and Olympic Briefs in the Daily Intelligence Briefing beginning Aug. 5.  View her July 28 webinar at this link.

Abbott Matthews is an Intelligence Analyst for the Americas Team at iJET International. Following her graduation from Colby College in 2013 with a BA in Latin American Studies and Government, she worked with the Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington, D.C., a US government regional security organization that works closely with security and education partners in the Western Hemisphere. Abbott has spent time abroad in Spain, Uruguay, and Colombia for study and field research.

In 2014, Abbott moved to Brasilia, Brazil for a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Brasilia; in 2015, Fulbright selected her to continue working with university’s programs in addition to supporting new Fulbright Scholars in the country. In addition to Fulbright work, she also worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a research assistant on regional security issues. As a regional expert, Abbott speaks Portuguese and Spanish fluently.

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