RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - An overhead television camera suspended by cables crashed to the ground in the Olympic Park on Monday, injuring seven people including two children, in the latest of a string of mishaps to hit South America’s first Games.
No one was badly hurt in the accident, which comes as another embarrassment for organizers already facing safety concerns after the armed robbery of U.S. gold medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte and three of his team mates at the weekend as well as the robberies of two visiting government ministers.
The aerial camera, encased in a heavy black cover, belonged to the official Olympics broadcast unit and fell about 20 meters (65 ft) after cables snapped, sending screams through the crowd, witnesses and officials said.
“I was looking to the camera ... and suddenly I heard a big snap on the cable and the camera came down,” said visitor Chris Adams, a member of the British gymnastics delegation.
A Brazilian television news report showed two women looking dazed, sitting on the ground near the camera. One woman, bleeding from the face as medics arrived, was taken away on a stretcher. The other walked from the scene wearing a neck brace.
A total of four people were taken to hospital after the incident, including two children who had been hit by a cable, a Rio Games official said. All were expected to be discharged from hospital later on Monday, the official said.
One of the camera’s cables had already broken before it fell and a walkway directly beneath had been cordoned off while the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) unit arranged for a cherry-picker to go to the scene and hoist someone up to it, OBS said.
But the camera came down at an angle, falling outside the cordon, said Adams, the British visitor, who was taking pictures of the park at the time.
“There was a lot of medical people and Rio staff around. They were very, very quick, they were excellent.”
ANOTHER MINISTER ROBBED
Rio organizers have been struggling with a series of security and logistical problems.
Bulgarian media reported on Monday that the country’s sports minister, Krasen Kralev, had been robbed of his watch while entering the Olympic athletics stadium.
“I have not said this before because I didn’t want it to sound like a complaint,” Kralev, a former long-distance runner, was quoted as saying. He declined to say when he had been robbed or give any other details of the incident.
A few days into the Games, Portugal’s education minister was robbed at knife point at the Olympic lake. He escaped unharmed and the assailant was arrested, Brazilian authorities said.
Also in the first week, bullets flew into the equestrian center, a Games bus was attacked with stones and the diving and waterpolo pools turned green with algae.
Inside the sporting arenas, though, world records have been falling and boisterous Brazilian crowds have been turning up in growing numbers, lending the Games a lively atmosphere.
In some brighter news for organizers, a cash crunch that had threatened to sink next month’s Paralympic Games looked to have eased on Monday when the International Paralympic Committee said it had received funding assurances from Rio’s mayor.
The Paralympics had come under threat from a Brazilian court ruling last week that banned the federal government and the city from making further disbursements of public funds for the Games.
“Although the situation is pretty precarious, rumors that the Games may not go ahead or that sports may be cut are totally unfounded and not true,” IPC chief Philip Craven said.
Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn, Pedro Fonseca and Karolos Grohmann; Writing by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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