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Rio Olympics grappling with security concerns


08-06-2015 16:02 BJT

In addition to construction and pollution issues, the organizers of the 2016 Summer Olympics are also grappling with security concerns, but as Damion Jones reports, those in charge are expressing full confidence that they will be able to deal with any challenges which come their way, over the next year in Rio de Janeiro.

From street protests to terrorist attacks, Rio de Janeiro is preparing for a myriad security issues ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics. More than 85,000 police officers and soldiers will be deployed – twice as many as at London 2012 – in an effort to keep safe over 10,000 athletes and even more tourists.

Authorities kicked off a pacification campaign seven years ago, wrestling control of the city's favelas away from drug traffickers. But some human rights groups have blasted law enforcement for alleged heavy-handedness, even as officials say the crusade is bearing fruit.

"From January to June of this year, we've had the lowest crime rate in recent years, including the lowest murder rate in 24 years," said Jose Mariano Beltrame, Rio State Secretary for Public Safety.

But despite falling crime rates, Rio remains dangerous, as a deadly shooting at a downtown metro station, and knife attacks near the lake which will host the Olympic rowing competition have made headlines recently, although experts don't seem overly concerned.

"It is urban crime, which affects people mainly in the middle to lower middle class, mostly living in favelas, the poorest parts of the city. In general, tourists fall victim to the same crimes as elsewhere in the world -- petty theft, someone stealing their cameras, things like that," said Michel Misse, security analyst & sociologist.

Brazil is also wary of terrorist activities, stepping up its aerial surveillance program, and sharing intelligence with 90 countries.

"We have had no indications that we might be targeted by extremist movements. But during the Olympic Games, as was the case before, Brazil will be in the spotlight for an event which could attract the attention of extremist groups, so that is why we are keeping permanent watch," said Saulo Moura, Brazilian intelligence official.

Rio can now boast, in many ways, expertise in running big events. Besides the annual Carnival and New Year's Party at Copacabana Beach, the city staged the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and hosted three million pilgrims during last week's visit by Pope Francis, so next summer's Olympics will be yet another monumental challenge for the South American metropolis.

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