The Rio Olympics kicked off in spectacular style at the weekend, even as authorities warned tourists to beware of mugging, theft and cyber crime and the Australian Embassy opened a temporary office in Rio de Janeiro.
The Australian Embassy will operate its temporary office in Rio during the Games to provide consular and passport services. The office will remain open until 18 September 2016.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises that tourists on Australian passports arriving in Brazil before 18 September 2016 will be exempt from a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
“Your passport must be valid for the entire period of your stay. If you are travelling outside of the dates of the visa waiver you will require a visa. The Brazilian Government administers a very strict entry regime and you are likely to be refused entry upon arrival if you fail to comply with entry requirements.”
Australia completed a golden first night in the Rio Olympics pool, with swimmer Mack Horton winning Australia’s first gold medal in the men’s 400m freestyle and two legs from the Campbell sisters (Bronte and Cate) setting up victory in the 4 x 100 metres freestyle final – and shattering the world record. Australia won its third gold medal when trap shooter Catherine Skinner won her first ever major international event.
It’s not all sport, however. Spectators streaming out of the Maracana stadium on Friday night after watching the Olympics opening ceremony were confronted by a corpse – that of a 22-year-old man shot dead by police in the street, Reuters reported.
Not long afterwards, two Australian rowing coaches were robbed at knifepoint near Rio’s famous Ipanema Beach. Several controlled explosions have been conducted as Olympic organisers tighten security around venues and keep a close eye on suspicious bags, amid concerns that Islamic militants could attack the Games.
Meanwhile, cyber security experts have warned that Rio will be a hotspot for cyber crime during the Games, with criminals heading there to cash in. Credit card skimming is a favourite method.
A new study from IBM, cited by the Australian Financial Review at the weekend, says Brazil ranks fourth globally in terms of monetary losses to cyber crime. The latest threat, which first appeared in Brazil last month, is Zeus Panda, a Trojan virus that targets banks and online payments. Security experts say the fact the virus first appeared in Brazil is no coincidence.
Overall, DFAT is warning Australian visitors to exercise a high degree of caution in Brazil.
“The incidence of violent crime, including muggings, armed robbery, home invasions, and sexual assault, is significant in Rio de Janeiro and other large Brazilian cities,” DFAT advises.
“However, violence and crime, often involving firearms or other weapons, can occur anywhere and at any time in Brazil.
“Petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching is also common, including by thieves on motorcycles. Thieves operate in outdoor markets, in hotels and on and around public transport. Crime levels in shanty towns or ‘favelas’ and many satellite cities are very high. Tourists should avoid these areas, even with an organised tour group and especially at night.
“Tourists have been robbed and assaulted when using registered and unregistered taxis. Use of a prepaid taxi ticket on arrival at the airport or taxis from registered taxi ranks may reduce the risk of robbery. Travellers should also consider making taxi bookings online or using smartphone apps which provide GPS tracking, driver name and registration details. These processes can also allow passengers to program their destination which may assist with language barriers. Official taxis are required to have their photographic licence displayed.
“In July 2016 Brazilian authorities arrested a number of individuals alleged to be planning terrorist attacks on the Olympic Games. Brazil has heightened security arrangements for the Olympic period. Even so, travellers are reminded that major international events represent potentially attractive targets for terrorists.”
Written by Peter Needham