Rio Olympic velodrome hit by fire; 2nd time this year
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — For the second time this year, a small hot-air balloon — also known as a “lantern” — has set fire to the velodrome built for last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The Olympic Legacy Governing Authority confirmed the cause of the blaze that broke out before dawn on Sunday in the Olympic Park in suburban Barra da Tijuca.
“It was the same thing as happened at the end of July, a lantern reached a portion of the roof of the building,” the statement said. It said an initial inspection did not show damage to the track.
Local media showed firefighters standing of the roof of the building putting out the fire.
The track and roof of the $45 million cycling venue was also damaged by fire when it was struck on July 30.
The racing surface for the costly venue was made of special Siberian wood, a requirement that made the cycling venue one of the last to be ready for the Olympics.
Despite being illegal, the release of the hand-made lanterns is common in Brazil. The lanterns often cause fires when they land.
Many of Rio’s sports venues are boarded up or struggling to find a use 15 months after the games ended. Brazil officially spent $13 billion in private and public money to organize the Olympics, with some putting the figure at $20 billion.
Brazil has been mired in the worst recession in generations, and many of the projects for the Olympics have been linked to corruption, over-billing and bribes.
Carlos Nuzman, who headed the local organizing committee, was arrested last month and is expected to stand trial for money laundering, tax evasion and racketeering.
French and Brazilian authorities allege he helped direct about $2 million in bribes to land the 2016 Olympics.
Nuzman resigned last month as president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and his honorary membership has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee.
He denies any wrongdoing, and the local organizing committee he ran is reported to still owe creditors millions.
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