RIO DE JANIERO (AFP) — The Olympic Games mountain bike competition will go ahead as planned, officials said on Tuesday, despite a nearby bushfire threatening the venue.
Reports emerged on Monday that athletes had been evacuated from the area as flames, fanned by high winds, were closing in on the Deodoro complex in the west of the city.
But officials of the International Cycling Union (UCI) said the course had emerged unscathed. “Following careful assessment carried out this morning, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) can confirm that the Rio 2016 Mountain Bike course has not suffered any damage which will affect the competition or the integrity of the venue,” said the UCI in a statement.
“All operations will resume today [Tuesday] as planned with National Olympic Committees being given the opportunity to walk the course later in the morning.”
Reacting on Monday evening, the UCI had said it would assess the situation before a decision on the races, due on Saturday and Sunday, was taken.
“The UCI is aware that there was a fire this [Monday] afternoon in the vicinity of the Rio 2016 mountain bike course,” said a spokesman. “It is understood the fire is now under control.”
Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said there had been some damage to the course, although unconfirmed reports said it was only to signage. But Andrada ruled out arson as a cause for the fire. “We haven’t got any information that leads us to think that way, although since it was a fire and since it affected an Olympic venue a full investigation has been launched,” he said.
“The fire started behind the shooting venue and then it was very windy and it was a bushfire and the fire moved close to a venue.
“We understand that there has been some damage to the venue but we don’t have the full assessment. Our teams are working there to get the venue ready.”
Road race world champion Peter Sagan is set to be the marquee participant in the men’s event having opted to skip the Olympics road race.
“I heard about the fire, but I really don’t know [anything],” said Sagan on Tuesday. “There are a lot of trees there, I don’t know if it’s too dangerous or not, we will see tomorrow if we do training there.”