Raging brush fire damages 2 Rio Olympic venues, organizers say

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 16 (UPI) — A raging wildfire that threatened multiple Olympic venues in Rio de Janeiro Tuesday is under investigation, authorities said.

The blaze started Monday afternoon in the Deodoro region of Rio — with a handful of venues, including the mountain biking track, in the fire’s path.

It’s the second fire in the region in the last week.

Firefighters extinguished the flames Tuesday, but not before they caused some structural damage to the Olympic shooting venue and minor damage at the biking track.

Equestrian, rugby, shooting, BMX, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, women’s basketball and modern pentathlon events are being held in Deodoro.

The fire started in a nearby garbage dump, officials said, but investigators were not immediately certain of its cause — intentional or accidental.

The blaze followed two other significant threats in Deodoro. Last week, a caravan carrying members of the Olympic media was attacked with stones — and a stray bullet was fired through the media tent at the equestrian center.

Officials said it’s possible the events are connected, or at least motivated by resentment from local residents opposed to the games.

“If we can see any connection we will act and report to you because it affects the safety of everybody,” Olympic spokesman Mario Andrada said.

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“Since it was a fire and since it affected an Olympic venue in a way, a full investigation has been launched.”

Deodoro is particularly crime-ridden as it’s a hotbed of illegal drug activity, officials said.

Last week, a different brush fire burned near the rugby sevens venue.

“High winds made the fire advance close to the mountain bike venue. During the firefighters work to contain it, the fire changed it’s direction and doesn’t represent any risk to the venue,” Olympic organizers said in a statement, also noting that no athletes were endangered.

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