The Olympics — a sprawling, shifting mass of people spread about various locations across a city — are a security logistics nightmare. There's so much for the police to manage, but just weeks out from the Rio de Janeiro games, the local police can't even afford pens to draw up plans to figure out the puzzle, the Associated Press reported.
Forget the big-money items: Police helicopters are grounded, patrol cars parked. The city's security forces are so cash-strapped they're reportedly begging for donations of pens, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.
Brazil is in the midst of a crippling recession, and Rio's acting governor this month declared a "state of calamity" over its financial problems. Police have been hit hard. They took to the streets Monday to protest unpaid salaries and an utter lack of supplies, including the aforementioned toilet paper. They also greeted travelers at the Rio airport with a banner reading, "Welcome to hell" and "Police and firefighters don't get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe."
"At the stations we don't have paper or ink for the printers, there's no one to come in to clean, and some stations don't have a water supply anymore, so the toilets are not functioning," a 39-year-old officer identified only as Andre told Agence France-Presse. "Members of the public bring toilet paper to us."
This leads to safety concerns. "How are people going to feel protected in a city without security?" acting Gov. Francisco Dornelles told Rio's O Globo daily newspaper. "We can have a great Olympics, but if some steps aren't taken, it can be a big failure."
Ilona Szabo, executive director of the Instituto Igarape, a Rio-based security and social issues think tank, told the Associated Press the cuts have caused "a very big crisis" in terms of police self-esteem, but the number of forces present at the games should help avoid a major security problem.
It's expected that 85,000 police and soldiers will be deployed during the games, scheduled for Aug. 5-21. That's about double the force at the 2012 London summer games.