Brazil Police to Take Over Security Screening at Rio Olympics

Brazil Police to Take Over Security Screening at Rio Olympics

Police officers from around the country will be stepping in after contractor failed to hire enough staff

Brazilian soldiers stand guard outside the Rio Olympic Park. The government said police from across the country will be stepping in to provide security screening for the Games after a private contractor failed to hire enough staff. ENLARGE
Photo: Pilar Olivares/Reuters
By Will Connors
Updated July 29, 2016 2:44 p.m. ET

RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazilian police will take over security screening outside Olympic venues after the private firm contracted to do the job failed to hire enough staff in time for the Games, which begin in a week, according to Brazil’s Ministry of Justice.

Police officers from around the country will be stepping in to handle the screening, which includes operating X-ray machines and patting down visitors for weapons and other contraband.

The last-minute change is likely to add to security concerns amid global fears of terrorism as hundreds of thousands of athletes and tourists descend on Rio for the Games.

How Ready Is Rio?

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the firm contracted to hire and train thousands of screeners, Artel Recursos Humanos, had no prior experience with security-related contracts or with contracts for events as big and complicated as the Olympics.

Artel was only able to hire 500 workers out of a planned 3,000, and blamed financial difficulties, according to Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes.

“The contractor regrettably failed to fulfill its contractual obligations,” Mr. Moraes said Friday. “With this contractual neglect, the company will be fined for their incompetence and irresponsibility.”

“The Olympics will not suffer any damage, because the military police will be there, which will guarantee 100% security of Olympic venues,” Mr. Moraes said.
Looming Problems Ahead of the Rio Olympics
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Just five weeks before the Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro faces unusual problems that pose challenges for one of the largest sporting events in the world. Photo: Getty

A representative from Artel declined to comment, as did a representative from the local Olympics organizing committee.

Brazil’s acting President Michel Temer said on Friday he is confident the country is doing all it can to prevent a terrorist attack at the Olympics but couldn’t rule out a rogue act by a disturbed loner.

“The government is on alert. The government is calm. I think there will be peace at the Olympic Games,” Mr. Temer said. “What we cannot guarantee…is that someone a bit crazy won’t do something foolish.”

Following the July 14 deadly truck rampage in Nice, France, Brazil’s Defense Ministry said all security procedures were under review for the coming Olympic Games, which are expected to attract around a half million visitors to this seaside city. About 85,000 military and police will be on guard, the largest-ever such deployment for a megaevent in the nation’s history.

The contract to hire and train the screeners for the Olympics, which start Aug. 5, was only awarded by the Ministry of Justice earlier this month, a compressed time frame that raised concerns among security experts.
Related

Temer Confident Brazil Can Prevent Terrorist Incident at Olympics
Brazil’s Olympic Security Approach Stresses Antiterror Efforts (July 28)
Rio’s Olympic Village Faces Housing Problems (July 26)
Rio Olympics Weapons-Screening Plans Are in Chaos (July 21)
Brazil Gets Late Start Hiring Security for Rio Games (July 17)

The 17.3-million-reais ($5.3 million) contract was awarded on July 1 to Artel, a small employment outsourcing firm that isn’t a major player in Brazil’s security industry. Artel listed a clothing company as its reference for the Olympic security bid, according to documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

One U.S. security industry expert previously called the tight window “staggering” for trying to pull off security for an event like the Olympics. By contrast, the screening contract for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was awarded 10 months before the start of those Games.

Screening bags and people is low-paid work, but guards generally need specialized, hands-on training to be effective, according to security experts.

People who were hired for the screener jobs, which pay about $9.50 a day, described a confusing and hastily organized process. More than a dozen interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said they needed minimal qualifications to land the jobs and were given few instructions beyond where to report for work.

Workers reported arriving for work on multiple occasions to find their posts unsupervised. They received no training beyond an multiple choice, online test.

Private security screening was a scandal at the 2012 London Olympics after G4S, one of the world’s largest security firms, acknowledged less than a month before the start of the Games that it wouldn’t be able to provide enough qualified security personnel. The British military was forced to step in to assist with screening duties.

—Benjamin Parkin and Rogerio Jelmayer contributed to this article.

Write to Will Connors at william.connors@wsj.com

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