Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
Perhaps Brazilian security was never prepared for the Olympics, but the decision to ditch strict procedures puts the games at risk.
Some of the few who are fortunate enough to attend the Rio 2016 Olympics aren’t seeing the games at all. From a fan’s perspective, that’s a crisis. But things could be worse—and may yet be, given the present course of decision-making by authorities in Rio.
From the start, epic lines greeted attendees at Rio 2016. Some lines stretched so long that people queued up only to miss the event entirely. Olympians competing in some early rounds of beach volleyball and basketball played to nearly empty venues, thanks to security procedures that held up fans for longer than the duration of the event.
These aren’t lines anyone would want to endure, even for a glimpse of Olympic glory.
In response, authorities in Brazil appear to be softening security requirements. The Wall Street Journal reports that security screeners are abandoning critical checks, namely X-ray screeners, in order to ease congestion and move the lines along. While the decision is certain to appease frustrated fans, lax standards also put the entire proceedings at risk.
This is a bad turn for the Rio Olympics. Even at its strictest, Brazilian security was arguably never up to the task of hosting the Olympics. The government was forced to call up retired police officers to help with screening for weapons at the event, moves that the government put into motion as late as last week. According to the Journal, the government was scrambling to replace security contractors with Artel Recursos Humanos, an outfit with no experience handling mega-events.
By all indications, the threat in Rio is very real: The New York Times reports that Brazil’s Federal Police have arrested 12 suspects calling themselves the “Defenders of the Shariah” since late July. While these suspects are reported to be unsophisticated would-be terrorists, some of the gravest recent attacks around the world have been conducted by militants lacking legitimate terror training, from Orlando to Nice. And the terror attacks of Munich in 1972 and Atlanta in 1996 still loom large over the games.
Security lapses represent another reason that the International Olympic Committee had no business continuing with the Rio 2016 Olympics. Even if inept procedures result in lines that last longer than events, Rio authorities should not dispense with every utmost precaution at their disposal. A Calamity Games is better than an international crisis.