RIO DE JANEIRO – Officials at the 2016 Rio Olympics aren’t dodging inquiries as those attending the Games worry about dodging bullets in the Deodoro region of the city.
Three separate incidents of gunfire (or alleged gunfire) have occurred in Deodoro, which sits about 30 minutes away from the Olympic Park and is home to both a military base and a neighborhood of favelas called Chapadão and Pedreira that are notorious for drug-fueled gang violence. There have been two bullets, fired on different days, that have landed around the Rio Olympics Equestrian Centre. There was also a media bus that had two windows shattered; according to passenger Lee Michaelson of Hoopfeed.com, a retired Air Force captain, there were two shots fired at the bus.
Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada confirmed on Thursday that the two bullets found at the equestrian site were fired from a great distance and that ballistics reports show the venue was not the target.
The first bullet, which fell through the roof of the equestrian media center last Saturday near where photographers were working, was targeting a blimp above the area, he said.
“The first bullet that was found in the press room, according to the forensic report, was aiming at a blimp that was stationed over one of the communities. The first bullet was found to be coming from 2km away from Deodoro and fell into the tent at a low speed, in an angle that confirms that the [media center] was not the target,” said Andrada.
The second bullet was found on Wednesday near the equestrian center’s stables. Andrada said, again, the venue was not the target, and that it was a stray bullet from a nearby firefight.
“Yesterday morning, the police did an operation in that particular favela. When they arrived, shots were fired at the police. Security forces said one of the bullets that was shot ended up very, very close to the stables, arriving there at an angle and a speed that could not be it was aimed at the stables,” he said.
“Indeed an arrest was made, a person carrying a rifle. It’s not yet possible that the rifle that was arrested with the person was the one that shot the bullet that was fired, but they are compatible with the bullet.”
As for the media bus incident, Rio and IOC officials maintain that the damage wasn’t caused by bullets but by rocks thrown at the bus.
“As the report states, and all the military on the scene and their commanders confirm again and again, it was a stone,” said Andrada, who said a ballistics report scheduled to be released on Thursday states that “there’s enough scientific and forensic evidence to confirm that was not a gunshot. It was not shot by a firearm.”
Michaelson remained skeptical in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “We’ll have to wait until I see the ballistics and forensics report… before I believe this was any kind of Olympic-level rock-throwing by local teenagers,” Michaelson said.
Rio officials said both police and the military have increased their presence and tactics in light of the incidents. Buses around the area where the shattered windows occurred are being escorted by military vehicles. The military also initiated operations where the firefight occurred. “The operations that were carried by the military right after the incident, and into the night, gives extra confidence that those incidents will not repeat,” said Andrada.
There have also been “social communications” between the military and local citizens regarding the incidents, which Andrada said sometimes “works better than a weapon.”
Rio 2016 officials said that the military has given them assurance that fans, athletes and media covering events in Deodoro are safe, and that the increase in military presence gives “extra confidence that those incidents will not repeat” as the Games continue.
“Security is our main concern,” said Andrada.