Rio de Janeiro – should you be afraid to go?

In many ways the timing for hosting the Olympic Games could hardly be worse for Brazil. A multitude of security issues and concerns seems so be leading up to a perfect storm, at least according to many news outlets. The country is grappling with the Zika outbreak which has affected millions, while at the same time dealing with an economic recession. It is also in the middle of a political upheaval with the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff, and the corruption charges levied against many politicians. Consequently, protests and demonstrations have been abundant. However this has not been unusual; ever since the World Cup two years ago people have regularly been taking to the streets. Social discontent caused by high levels of corruption and slow economic growth has also recently triggered large-scale anti- and pro- government protests.
In addition, payments to civil servants such as police and firefighters have been delayed for months in Rio de Janeiro, and police are threatening to strike during the Olympics. In Rio, police officers greeted tourists with a banner reading “Welcome to hell” at the arrivals hall at the international airport.
After the terrorist attack in Nice, questions are again being raised about how prepared Rio is for any terrorist attack. International terrorism is a growing threat and the risk associated with large sporting events has been shown not least by past incidents, with the Boston marathon bombing of 2013, and the targeting of the Stade de France football stadium in the Paris attacks of November 2015. International observers have issued concerns over the routines and measures of Brazilian authorities in terms of terrorism prevention. The lack of border control is also an issue that has raised concerns; airport officials are often corrupt and investigations have shown that it is often very easy to smuggle items into the country.
Enormous problems with water pollution have called into question whether some competitions can even be held, fearing that athletes might get sick. Untreated sewage and industrial waste pour into the Guanabara Bay waters on a daily basis, and garbage floating around the shore is a common sight.
So should you be afraid of going? Newspapers are known to exaggerate the risks, and Brazilian officials insist that Rio is up to the task of hosting the Games. But as a traveller it is difficult to get access to unbiased information. In order to help travellers stay safe during the Games, we have therefore launched a special Rio de Janeiro site with security information and travel tips for travellers during the Games.
We are also offering our app Safeture for free to the first 10.000 travellers who download or activate the app in Rio de Janeiro, or have downloaded or activated the app before arrival. The app has updated security and travel information about Rio and will provide travellers with real-time alerts for all of Brazil.
/Lotta Herz