Not many destinations get the opportunity to follow a World Cup with an Olympics, and Rio's ability to execute the former with few real kinks should give it the benefit of the doubt when it comes to performing well during the latter.
A government watchdog said Wednesday that “flaws” in Brazil’s border security are a “big concern” heading toward next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Augusto Nardes, a government auditor, told a news conference organized by Brazil’s Justice Ministry that police and military need better ways to control the country’s 17,000 kilometer-long (10,500-mile) border, which touches 10 countries and runs through remote areas of the Amazon jungle.
“We are aware that we have seven months to correct (the problem),” Nardes said, speaking at a news conference with security issues for the Olympics on the rise following the deadly attacks almost two weeks ago in Paris.
However, Public Security Secretary Regina Miki dismissed those concerns.
Miki said Brazil’s policing was also questioned before the World Cup in 2014, when thousands of police and soldiers were deployed to keep order.
“The Olympics in Rio will be held in total security,” she said.
Andrei Rodrigues, a former bodyguard for President Dilma Rousseff and since 2013 managing Brazil’s security for special events, said the Paris attacks did not change Olympic security planning.
“Brazil is now a reference in big events, we have know-how,” he said.
However, independent security consultant Paulo Storani disagreed.
“Brazil’s public security plan for the Olympics is a total improvisation,” he told The Associated Press. “There are no deadlines for things to happen. It is hard to know who is responsible for what.”
As in most Olympics, Brazil is working with many countries, including France and the United States, to improve security.
Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Brazil’s experience of holding last year’s World Cup was an advantage.
But he said security experts from previous Olympics, who have been regularly visiting Rio, would return in the next few months.
“The idea would be to review again the plans in detail and see, considering the overall situation, if some other extra measures could be implemented.”
He did not offer details.
Rio’s top state security official, Jose Mariano Beltrame, said last week that preventing terrorism has “always been the No. 1 priority” in Olympic planning, even though Brazil does not have a history of attacks.
The more visible problem in Rio is endemic street crime, with frequent assaults in high-profile tourist spots like Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
Much of the violence takes place in sprawling hillside slums, where police are outnumbered by armed gangs. Some of these areas border Rio’s famous beach areas in the south of the city, which will host several Olympic events.
Beltrame said there would be 60,000-65,000 police on the streets during the Aug. 5-21 Olympics, with a contingency force of another 15,000 troops awaiting deployment in case of an emergency.
Several months ago Beltrame said an extra 30,000 might be needed to provide “ideal” security.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Wade in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.
Photo credit: Brazilian police officers take part in a security drill in preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Silvia Izquierdo / Associated Press