Rio de Janeiro bike path collapses, killing two ahead of 2016 Olympic Games

The event casts further doubt on Brazil's readiness for one of the world's biggest sporting events

Will Worley
Friday 22 April 2016 15:21 BST
The collapsed area of the Olympics legacy project
The collapsed area of the Olympics legacy project

An elevated cycle path in Rio de Janeiro has collapsed, killing two people and increasing concern about how prepared Brazil is to host the Olympics in August.

A 50-meter section of the Ciclovia Tim Maia was washed away by waves on Thursday while people rode along the pathway, which was only completed in January after 18 months of work.

The ocean-side cycle lane was not intended for use in sporting events but was built at a cost of 45 million reals (about £8.7m) as a legacy project for the citizens of Rio.

Cyclist Guilherme Miranda said he was riding along the path when a wave hit the structure causing it to flip up and then collapse.

“I almost died,” he told local broadcaster G1. “Where’s the mayor, where’s the engineer who did this work?

"It’s horrendous to see people dying in front of you. Somebody has to give an answer, they spent 45 million on this. They just opened it, and it’s already cracked in several places.”

Another eyewitness, Damiao Pinheiro de Araujo, told news outlet Globo: "People stopped on the cycle path to take photos of the waves. They were enormous.

"A bigger wave came, the path lifted up and a section fell. I saw people falling. It's sad. For me, the path was badly planned."

Municipal secretary Pedro Paulo Carvalho said: “It’s clear that an accident like this is unpardonable.”

However he said it was “premature” to claim the disaster was caused by the structural issues.

The cycle lane has now been closed for further investigations.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with the people and their families and friends affected by the tragic accident," said Rio’s Olympic organizing committee in a statement.

Local media reported the company which built the bike path is owned by relatives of the municipal public works secretary, Antonio Paulo Viegas Figueira de Mello.

The company declined to comment on an alleged family connection to the construction project and also could not say whether they were involved in any other Olympic projects.

A statement by the company said: "The priorities at the moment are to ensure treatment of the victims and their families and evaluate the causes of the accident."

At the opening of the pathway earlier this year, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes called it "the most beautiful bike path in the world".

Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, an overpass in Belo Horizonte, which was a tournament venue, collapsed, also killing two people.

Organizers say 98 per cent of the construction for the Olympics has been completed but earlier in April a top gymnastics official said power cuts had disrupted a test event. Francesco Ricci Bitti, the head of a body representing Olympic sports federations, said organizers "missed some very important details in each field of play".

Several other venues are behind schedule, including the velodrome for indoor cycling.

The biggest laggard is the extension of the subway line, the largest project to ready the city for South America's first games.

Sidney Levy, the chief executive of the organizing committee, said the subway would have a "soft opening" a month before the games open.

Furthermore, a Rio de Janeiro city councilman has asked for an inquiry into possible corruption in Olympics projects, and a judge has ruled that the probe should go forward. The federal police are also conducting an investigation.

Meanwhile, Brazil is also dealing with the possible impeachment of its current president, Dilma Rousseff, and fighting the Zika virus.

These woes have contributed to poor ticket sales. The games begin in four months’ time but only 60 per cent have been sold.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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