Judge Orders Closure Of Rio 2016 Olympic Park On Safety Grounds

The Olympic Park, Rio 2016 - Photo Courtesy: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

A Brazilian judge has ordered the closure of Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Park from today on safety grounds. The complex includes the abandoned site of the pool in which we witnessed the last stand of Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all-time.

The Rio pool was dismantled after the Games but the building remained as a facility in decay for a long time after the last race was swum, the last drop of water drained. Its legacy stands in stark contrast to that of the iconic Water Cube (National Aquatics Center) in Beijing, thriving and in regular use 12 years after Phelps raced to a record eight gold medals.

Judge Eugenio Rosa de Araujo made the Brazilian order late on Wednesday, his deadline set to run out before the weekend begins. There were no current safety licences for the site, while Rio’s city hall had not provided safety assurances for the Olympic Park to hold public events, the Judge noted in his ruling.

The news coincides with the installation today of a giant Olympic rings monument by Tokyo 2020 Games organisers in the shadow of the Japanese capital’s Rainbow Bridge.

Go back a cycle and Rio was welcoming the world to its Olympic Park in 2016. Since then, the site has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The venue hosted swimming, basketball and tennis at the 2016 Games and has since been used for music festivals and e-sports tournaments, among other events.

Images of a park in decline, with key Olympic venues all but abandoned, have made the news worldwide since 2017.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher- USA TODAY Sports

Judge Rosa de Araujo cited local prosecutors in his decision when he said the Park was “progressively battered by the lack of care” and “ready for tragedies”.

The closure adds a new line to a list of negative legacy narratives associated with the 2016 Olympics, which were marred by corruption claims. Those included investigations into two members of the 2013-17 FINA Bureau, Ben Ekumbo, of Kenya, and Coaracy Nunes, of Brazil. Both men were subsequently convicted of wrongdoing.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced soon after Rio that it had started an investigation into allegations that up to nine of its members were bribed to vote for Rio’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

The claims were made by Rio de Janeiro’s former state governor Sergio Cabral in a court in Rio.

Meanwhile, Rio’s city hall announced that it will appeal against Judge Rosa de Araujo’s ruling, while the city’s fire brigade was reported by Reuters and saying that the relevant facilities at the Rio Olympic Park had all the necessary safety documents for events to be held.

Over in Tokyo, the five interlocking rings will be installed at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay, the site for the marathon swimming and triathlon events this year, controversy in the mix.

The Rings monument, built in Yokohama and brought to the Tokyo waterfront area atop a salvage barge, is 32.6 metres wide and stands 15.3 metres tall.

It will be officially inaugurated at a ceremony on January 24, precisely six months before the start of the Olympics. During the Paralympic Games, from August 25 to September 6, the Rings monument will be replaced with the Paralympic symbol.