These kids have been preparing during four years, have competed under a gigantic amount of pressure, and might do things that later regret. It’s all part of life. They were trying to have fun. These were the thoughts expressed by a spokesman for the Games in Rio during a press conference, discussing the alleged robbery of American swimmers this past weekend.
Should these swimmers be pardoned (if indeed they lied) and be treated like kids just having fun and not measuring the consequences? Maybe. But first, many people, especially in Brazil, hurt by this type of events, demand to know what really happened.
Because, even though the story may not be clear at the moment, one thing is certain: the first account, the one expressed by Lochte, and quickly published all over the world, hurt Brazil’s reputation as a country which has struggled against violence and corruption. An episode like this only hurts a little more.
If you don’t recall the news, during the last weekend, Ryan Lochte and other swimmers from the USA Team claimed that, while riding back to the Olympic village in a taxi after a party at Club France -a place set up to promote France during the Games, they were assaulted by criminals wearing police uniforms at around 4 a.m.. Lochte went beyond the robbery claimed and admitted he was threatened by a gun to his head.
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte said. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.” This is the partial transcript between Lochte and Billy Bush. And here’s the video of Lochte himself describing the episode to Billy Bush.
So, after these allegations were made, it was just another story coming from Brazil, another dangerous South American country, where tourists must remain vigilant at all times, since not only criminals, but also police officers can rob you at gunpoint.
But, Brazil officials, obviously hurt by the publicity of alleged robbery, in the middle of the games, involving one of the most decorated swimmers of all time, started digging up a bit. What did they find?
Footage from a gas station allegedly showing Lochte and the other swimmers, during an hour they were supposed to have arrived at the village, according to the swimmer account. What’s more, a unnamed Brazilian official has now claimed that Lochte fabricated the whole story.
And it is now when this story is turning into one of those teenage horror movies in which the truth is not what it seems, the stories get altered and the end is unclear (to some, at least).
An official investigation has unfolded. As a result of the ongoing investigation, two American swimmers were pulled off their airplane yesterday, as they were trying to leave the country. They will be questioned by the Brazilian police.
Matt Gutman, from ABC, even reported that footage from the gas station security cameras shows swimmers “fighting” with security guard, which would give the story a whole different turn.
In O Globo, a Brazilian news outlet, I read today that the owner of the gas station claims that the swimmers were vandalizing the property.
Fabricating a story that involves robbery at gunpoint in a foreign country may not qualify as a smart decision even when intoxicated, much less the day after the events with cameras in your face, especially in a country that has struggled with violence and corruption.
And, on top of that, the story comes from an American, who, in some cases, are disdained in Brazil for showing little respect, as tourists, to the beautiful country. But we will see what the real story might reveal. Either Rio or the swimmers (especially Lochte) will definitely come out at the wrong end.
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