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Environment

‘Uninhabitable’ Olympic Village Drives Athletes Into Hotels

Ah, the Olympic Village: it’s a safe, hygienic living community for the world’s fastest and strongest, right? Well, maybe not this year.

A mere 11 days before the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, athletes worldwide are refusing to move into what the Australian Olympic team calls “uninhabitable” Village quarters.

Australian team boss Kitty Chiller was the first to take a stand, refusing to move her athletes into the Rio Olympic Village due to "blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring" that drove her first arrivals into a hotel. Such problems are not uncommon in Brazil, where narrow pipes and poor plumbing mean residents throw toilet paper in bins rather than flushing it.

Kitty Chiller, the head of Australia's Olympic delegation, says the conditions in the Village are the worst she’s seen upon arrival in her five Olympics.

The issues weren’t relegated to pipes or wires either; Chiller said some village apartments had water running down the walls and "a strong smell of gas." Stairwells were unlit and floors were in desperate need of a thorough clean.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes responded to Australian criticism, stating the village is "more beautiful" than Sydney for the 2000 Games and teasing that he was about to put "a kangaroo jumping outside" to make the team feel more at home.

New Zealand's Olympic Committee complained of similar conditions upon arrival last week, and was forced to turn to handymen to fix internal issues such as plumbing. Italy's Carlo Mornati said his team was hiring laborers, electricians, plumbers and bricklayers to bring the apartments "up to normal conditions as soon as possible."

Organizers insist that extra maintenance staff and more than 1,000 cleaners are "working 24 hours a day until the issues are resolved."

Village quarters have been criticized for their resemblance to college dorm rooms.

Team Great Britain's communications director Scott Field has also remained optimistic regarding village conditions, simply stating, “We are confident that our accommodation is ready to receive athletes and will be to the highest standards within the village."

All eyes are on Rio to ensure that the world’s most prestigious athletes can focus on the Games, rather than on the unsatisfactory conditions they might come home to after tireless days of training and competition. Kangaroo or not, let’s hope Field is right!


Marilyn Smith contributed to this article.