Australian athletes can't visit Ipanema, Copacabana after dark

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Australia Olympic Committee (AOC) has laid down new stringent security protocols for its athletes which involve declaring Ipanema and Copacabana beaches out of bounds after nightfall.

The decision comes soon after confirmation came from the United States Olympic Committee that four American swimmers, including six-time gold medalist Ryan Lochte, were held up at gunpoint early Sunday morning.

Australia Olympic chiefs have already hit out at the levels of security in Rio, with an AOC spokesperson saying on Aug. 6: "The host nation is responsible for the safety of the 10,500 athletes who are in Rio right now, and it is just not good enough."

His comments followed two Australian rowing coaches being robbed on Ipanema Beach shortly after the opening ceremony.

With a number of Australian athletes now enjoying well-deserved downtime after finishing their events, Kitty Chiller -- Australia's chef du mission -- has spoken to the various team directors to refine their security protocols.

"Security is our primary concern for our athletes and team members," Chiller said. "[Security director] Greg Nance met with our team directors and for those sports who have finished their competition, we have introduced further security protocols, especially for those traveling to the Ipanema and Copacabana area to ensure above all else we keep our team members safe.

"We reiterated our initial protocols, which is they should travel in groups of three. We have put now the actual sand on the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches off limits [from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.]. There has been an increase in petty criminal -- but still criminal -- activity on the beaches.

"If travelling at night after dark -- between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. -- that is only by vehicle, not by foot even if you're going 400 or 500 meters.

"The team managers are doing a great job, but we reiterated the importance of someone within the team knowing where the athletes are at any point in time."

Chiller said another protocol was not to wear a team uniform when out on a recreational activity, while athletes have been advised to head out at night in the Barra neighborhood rather than going toward Ipanema or Copacabana.

Swimmer Mitch Larkin, who won silver in the 200-meter backstroke, said it was "a little disappointing" that these security protocols were needed but said "health and safety are the most important things in life" and "these guidelines are fantastic."
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