Twenty-nine people have been killed in Rio de Janeiro over the last week in an intense firefight between drug traffickers and police. The gun battle has been so intense that gang members managed to shoot down a police helicopter. Just a few weeks after the city scored the 2016 Olympics, the violence has reignited concerns over whether Rio is safe enough to host the Games. Yet many commentators have reacted temperately to the violence, claiming that Rio is no more dangerous than any other Olympic host.
- Rio Is No Worse Than London or The U.S. At The Times of London, Ashling O'Connor says that the Olympics are inevitably dangerous. "Security is an issue for every Olympic city because of the profile of the event," he wrote. "A day after London won the 2012 Olympics, four suicide bombers attacked the underground train and bus networks, killing 52 people. Sir Craig Reedie, a member of the IOC's executive board, said: 'I deeply regret what happened in Rio but I have to say that it pales into insignificance compared to what happened in London in 2005.'"
- The Violence Is Contained Oliver Holt, a London sports columnist for The Mirror, says giving Rio the 2016 Games is still "one of the IOC's greatest ideas." Holt says he witnessed some of the violence in Rio, and still believes the city is safe for foreigners. And he argues that the violence in cities like Rio and Johannesburg, which will host next year's World Cup, is mostly confined to poorer areas where tourists are unlikely to visit. "Most of the violence in South Africa and Brazil occurs in the ghettos.
That does not make it any less distressing but it does mean it is
unlikely to have any significant impact on supporters."
- Rio's Games, Rio's Problems In Time Magazine, Andrew Downie says the International Olympic Committee looked the other way in the face of the city's violence, just as Rio wanted it to. And now, Downie writes, Rio will have to deal with the responsibility of keeping foreigners safe.
Before the Games and the World Cup were awarded, Rio officials played down the security angle, and they were delighted at the willingness of the IOC and FIFA to turn a blind eye to the problem. Now, though, they are the ones who are left to deal with the problem. Last weekend was a reminder that, tough as it may be to meet the tight schedule for building the stadiums and the public-transportation infrastructure that is required to host these events, that may turn out to be the easy part.
- How to Protect Yourself If You Go At The Wall Street Journal, John Lyons seems to accept that the Games are going on as planned. So he helpfully offers some advice to Olympic visitors. When in Rio, he says, act like a local:
Violence is an issue throughout the city. Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are a concern at Rio's most celebrated beaches, such as Leblon and Ipanema. Locals take steps to reduce their risk of being targets, such as removing expensive watches while driving to avoid attracting carjackers. Rio residents, called Cariocas, school visitors in reacting to an assault: Don't argue with assailants and turn over everything to them.
- Pack Your Bulletproof Vests! At AmericaBlog, Chris in Paris is decidedly more concerned about the violence than other writers. "As bad as the violence is in the US - and yes, the world views the US as a very dangerous place - you don't see police helicopters shot down."