Olympics: Team Australia praises rapid improvements made to Games accommodation

The Chef de Mission for Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Kitty Chiller (center), with athletes Jason Whateley (left), Daniel Lewis (second, left) and Shelley Watts (right) at a press conference on July 25.
The Chef de Mission for Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Kitty Chiller (center), with athletes Jason Whateley (left), Daniel Lewis (second, left) and Shelley Watts (right) at a press conference on July 25. PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Australia's Olympic delegation in Rio de Janeiro said on Monday that organisers had made "fantastic" progress in fixing problems with unfinished housing, although officials admitted that only two-thirds of the buildings had passed full safety checks.

Organisers for South America's first Olympic Games built 31 17-story buildings, but only 12 had been given the green light by Monday morning while another eight were in the process of receiving a full safety certification, Rio2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said.

"Twenty will be ready by today and 31 should be ready by Thursday," Andrada said, a full eight days before the opening ceremony.

The admission came a day after Australia's delegation said it would not move into the Olympic Village because it was "not safe or ready," citing deficiencies like "blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring".

 

The list of grievances from Australia, which moved members of its delegation into nearby hotels, revived concerns over Brazil's readiness to host a major sporting event in the midst of its worst recession in decades and a deep political crisis.

New Zealand and Italy's delegations both said they had been forced to fix problems with electricity and plumbing, while Argentina said on Monday it had reserved accommodation outside the village for part of its delegation.

The Netherlands team said their own staff had resolved many of the issues that beset their building, but they threatened to seek financial compensation for their work.

"We will evaluate this situation with International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Rio 2016 after the Games," chief of mission Maurits Hendriks, said in a statement issued on Sunday night. "This applies, for example, to financial consequences as a result of the measures we are taking and have been taken."

However, the head of the Australian Olympic team, Kitty Chiller, thanked organisers on Monday for responding promptly to her concerns by deploying hundreds of maintenance people and cleaners.

"There was fantastic progress made today," Chiller told a news conference in the Olympic media centre. "It's looking like, according to our plan, we will be able to move everybody in on Wednesday."

The newly-built Village will host more than 18,000 athletes, officials, staff and volunteers over the Aug 5-21 Olympics and the Sept 7-18 Paralympics.

Chiller said her team had identified some 200 problems with the accommodation at the weekend - including water running down the walls, dirty floors and a strong smell of gas - but the list was now down to single figures.

Australia, which finished eighth in the medals table in London four years ago, is to bring 410 athletes for the games. It received three of its floors in the athletes accommodation on Monday, and it expects to receive the rest of the 15 floors by Wednesday, Chiller said.