'Don't travel alone at night': ASU, USA swim coach urges Olympic athletes to be cautious in Rio

Posted at 3:38 PM, Jul 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-06 18:38:31-04

As the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro approach, concerns about the safety and security of Olympic athletes continue to mount.

Homicides and robberies throughout the city have increased as police officers continue to go unpaid. Last month, an Australian paralympic team was robbed at gunpoint. And last week, body parts washed on the shore of the Olympic beach volleyball venue.

Arizona State swimming coach Bob Bowman, who will coach the USA Olympic swim team in Rio next month, said this year's Olympians have been warned about the potential dangers they might encounter outside the city's Olympic village.

"We encourage them when they leave the village not to wear anything that has 'USA' on it"

"We've given them some guidelines about what to do, what to bring, what not to bring, how they should travel if they're going outside of the village and some things like that," Bowman said Wednesday. "I feel like we've covered the bases as well as we can."

Bowman said athletes have been encouraged to take additional safety measures if they decide to leave the village.

"There's some security that they can access once they're outside of the village, but really once they do that, they're on their own," he said. "We encourage them when they leave the village not to wear anything that has 'USA' on it, to be in plain clothes. That's been a standard operating procedure of ours for a long time: When we're traveling or when we're out in public, we try not to wear things that (say) 'USA,' 'Olympic team,' those kinds of things.

"We encourage them not to take anything that they don't want to lose. If you have a special watch or your wedding ring or something like that, you can lock it back in there. We're going to have safes and stuff in the village that you can take."

Bowman also encourages Olympians to travel in groups and not to travel at night unless it's necessary.

"They can choose to stay in the village so they have a safe place, but if you stay in the village, you're on an honor code and you have to sign in every night at 1 a.m., which is fine with me, but some of these older guys probably want to have a little more freedom to do things in Rio," he said.

"We're encouraging them not to really stay outside the village unless they have a really secure place and they have a plan."

Bowman said Olympians will be as prepared as possible when the games begin Aug. 5, and while it's impossible to plan for all contingencies, he suspects Olympians will succeed in remaining safe throughout the games.

"I guess the thing that makes us all uneasy is we really don't know," he said. "To be perfectly honest, in every Olympics, there's something we really don't know about, and every time we get there, it's not that big a deal. I'm praying that that's what this is, that it will be better than what we anticipate it will be."