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Rio athletes village a shambles

2016-07-24 19:29

Sydney - Australian athletes will not move into their rooms at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics until serious plumbing, electrical and cleaning problems are fixed, with the troubled South American games opening in under two weeks.

Kitty Chiller, the head of the Australian delegation, said in a statement on Sunday that team members "will not move into our allocated building" at the Athletes Village. She gave no hint of when they might. Teams from Britain and New Zealand were also reported to be having similar problems.

This comes as the sprawling 31-building village, which will house 18 000 athletes and officials at the height of the games, opened officially on Sunday with some athletes expected to arrive.

This is the latest problem for the troubled games, which have been hit by the Zika virus, water pollution and severe budget cuts.

The International Olympic Committee and local organizers held emergency talks on Sunday, but did not reply immediately to emails from The Associated Press.

"We're having plumbing problems, we've got leaking pipes," Mike Tancred, the spokesperson for the Australian team, said in an interview with AP. "We've got electrical problems. We've got cleaning problems. We've got lighting problems in some of the stairwells."

He said more than 20 staff members have been unable to stay in the building, and said the first Australian athletes were to arrive Monday.

"We did a stress test on Saturday, turned on the taps and flushed the toilets, and water came flooding down the walls," Tancred said.

Chiller listed the same problems, and added more.

"Water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was 'shorting' in the electrical wiring," she said. "We have been living in nearby hotels because the village is simply not safe or ready."

She said teams from Britain and New Zealand had similar problems, which have been going on for at least a week.

The United States Olympic Committee acknowledged there were small problems.

"As is the case with every Games, we're working with the local organisers to address minor issues and make sure the village is ready for team USA athletes," spokesperson Patrick Sandusky told AP.

Local reports said about 5% of the apartments had gas, water and electrical faults, and some were without toilet fixtures.

Scott Field, spokesperson for the British team, declined to comment but acknowledged problems were being tackled.

Chiller said the IOC will ask local organisers to do stress tests "throughout the Olympic Village," a process that could force major delays and require people living there now to relocate.

The 31-building compound contains tennis courts, soccer fields, seven swimming pools - with mountains and the sea as a backdrop - topped off by a massive dining-kitchen compound that's as large as three football fields.

The 3 600 apartments are to be sold after the Olympics with some prices reaching $700 000. The development costs about $1.5 billion, built by the Brazilian billionaire Carlos Carvalho.

"From the exterior it looks like the Hilton Hotel," Tancred said. "But inside it's not finished."

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