Brazilian military officials were forced to shut down the road around Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, on Tuesday after the discovery of an abandoned backpack. Copacabana is an Olympic venue, the site of the beach volleyball stadium.
The site is also a cycling venue and has been shut down for similar threats on multiple occasions since the Olympics began. As reported by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, “last Saturday, a suspicious bag scared all attending a cycling competition in Copacabana. The bag was abandoned near the road cycling circuit surrounding the Copacabana Fort. The bomb squad was triggered by the National Strength and as a precaution, he chose to blow up the object.”
Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo highlighted the training that workers have received regarding how to handle an abandoned backpack: “All were warned about the risk posed by an abandoned bag. The orientation included taxi drivers and hotel staff. Since the training, there have been 20 times the number of calls to police to report suspicious packaging.”
In the weeks before the Olympics, a variety of staffers including police, service industry workers, and others in attendance received federal police — even U.S. security — guidance regarding unattended bags. Folha also reported, “The SESGE (Special Secretariat for Large Events) has advised anyone who finds an abandoned backpack, bag, or package should call the police and avoid handling the item until the police have arrived.”
Rio officials have been fielding an average of three bomb threats a day since the Olympics began: “In the past fifteen days, police have recorded a total of over 47 bomb threats, though none have led to the discovery of any explosives. Police issued training to locals on how to identify suspicious packages and when to alert authorities about a potential bomb threat.” Folha pointed out that before the Olympics came to Rio, police would answer on average only two threats, if that, per month. Although all of the threats have turned out to false alarms so far, police have treated all as if they were real, in some cases triggering controlled detonations of the suspicious items.