RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Brazilian police arrested a Moroccan Olympic boxer on Friday (Aug 5) for allegedly sexually assaulting two female cleaners in the athletes’ village in Rio de Janeiro.
Officers arrested Hassan Saada, 22, from Casablanca, on suspicion of committing the assault on Wednesday, said a police statement released hours ahead of the Games’ opening ceremony.
“According to investigations, on Aug 3 the athlete sexually assaulted two Brazilian room cleaners who were working in the athletes’ village,” it said.
Billions of people around the world are expected to watch on Friday evening as Rio hosts the formal opening of the Olympics, with several world leaders in attendance.
Police sources told the news site G1 that Saada was accused of calling the cleaners to his room on the pretext of asking them a question and then improperly touched them. The women managed to escape.
The site said that two other athletes were allegedly in the room at the time but did not react to the assault.
A court granted a police request for Saada to be held in preventive detention for two weeks pending investigation, the statement said.
The International Boxing Association lists Saada as a former Moroccan youth champion and “newcomer to the international scene.” He was to fight in the 81kg or light-heavyweight category in the Rio Games.
Saada had been scheduled to fight Mehmet Nadir Unal of Turkey on Saturday in his first bout of the Games, G1 reported.
News site Globo reported that the Rio 2016 organizing committee had promised to cooperate with the investigation.
It was the latest in a series of scandals and dramas to hit the Games in the crime-plagued Brazilian city.
On July 31, a private security guard at Rio’s Olympic Park was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a female firefighter while she slept.
Security is a major concern at the Rio Olympics, the first held in South America.
About 85,000 police and soldiers, as well as thousands of private guards, have been deployed – double the number used at the 2012 London Games.
Brazil suffers high levels of violence against women. Statistics indicate that in 2014 a sexual assault took place on average every 11 minutes.
In May, an alleged gang-rape of an unconscious teenage girl shocked the country after it came to light in an online video posted by the suspects.
The Games had already been hit by scandal, with dozens of Russian athletes being barred over allegations of state-run doping.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) said Thursday that all 11 Russian boxers entered for the Rio Olympics had been cleared and should be allowed to compete.
The AIBA drew wide criticism in world boxing circles this year for opening the Olympic competition to professional boxers for the first time.
Professionals in many other sports – like basketball, ice hockey and tennis – were long ago allowed to compete in the Olympics.