Irish Paralympics legend John Twomey has issued a stark warning ahead of the Paralympic and Olympic Games as gun battles broke out on the streets of Rio de Janeiro last night.
The veteran sailor, who is competing in a pre-Games regatta in Rio before his 11th Paralympics in August, spoke out after the latest in a series of violent incidents affecting paralympic sailors based in Rio.
“I am not being sensationalist about this. There is real, live danger on the streets here. I would urge people who are considering coming out here as spectators to be super cautious, and to be aware of the problems,” said Mr Twomey.
“The security arrangements for the athletes are pretty good, but I would have real concerns for spectators. I’ve been to a lot of international events all over the world and I’ve never seen it so bad.”
The Kinsale Yacht Club member, who won gold in Seoul in 1988, also criticised the water quality around Rio’s Paralympic and Olympic sailing course, which he said is littered with plastic rubbish that is fouling rudders.
Mr Twomey spoke out last night after a gun battle erupted between rival gangs across the street from a neighbouring yacht club, just days after two members of the Australian team were robbed at gunpoint. Australian team members, sailor Liesl Tesch and team official Sarah Ross, were confronted by two men, one armed with a gun, while riding their bikes in a park near their hotel on Sunday.
“I was threatened with the pistol and pushed to the ground,” said Tesch.
“He took my bike, and the other perpetrator took Sarah’s bike. We are both shaken, but physically we’re both okay.”
Australian Sailing chief executive Matt Carroll said they are working with the Australian Paralympic Committee and Australian Federal Police to ensure the team has an appropriate level of security in the lead-up to, and during, both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Earlier this month, two members of a drugs gang armed with machine guns stole two Team Great Britain ribs from a yacht club in Niteroi — across the bay from where Mr Twomey is staying. The yacht club was hit by stray bullets from a nearby gunfight some weeks ago.
Mr Twomey praised the security arrangements around his accommodation just outside Rio and said athletes will be well protected, but he urged extreme caution to anyone who intends visiting Rio as a spectator.
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