After the delegation complained of blocked toilets and leaky pipes over the weekend, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, who has repeatedly found himself on the defensive over Olympic conditions, quipped that he should perhaps put “a kangaroo in front of their building to make them feel at home.”
The issues delayed the country’s athletes from taking up lodging in the brand-new Olympic Village complex at its official opening last Sunday (July 24).
On Tuesday, as the country’s hockey team, archers, gymnasts and shooters finally moved in, they were greeted not only by a kangaroo, but an emu to boot.
Mike Tancred, media director for the Australian Olympics team, said the statues had nothing to do with the housing controversy.
“We had the kangaroo and the emu out front of our building in London in 2012 and we have brought them here. The animals are on our crest. They are national symbols,” he said.
Australia’s delegation took issue with the poor state of the Olympic Village, the 31-building complex located in the Barra da Tijuca district in the west of Rio de Janeiro designed to house more than 18,000 athletes and coaching staff over the coming weeks.
“Problems include blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed and dirty floors in need of a massive clean,” the head of the Australian team, Kitty Chiller, said in a statement.
Rio’s Olympic organisers said such teething problems plagued all Olympic Games and promised that “adjustments” would be made to resolve the problems.
By Tuesday Tancred reported that there were “still three plumbing issues in three different rooms,” but that the remaining main challenge was cleaning.
“We are progressing. The village is fantastic,” he said.
The lack of preparedness in the Olympic Village has been an embarrassing blow for Brazil, which is struggling to show all will be well with the Olympiad.
The country is already facing low ticket sales, general public apathy amid a deep recession, fears over the Zika virus, and a spike in street crime as police complain of lack of resources.