/ 14 July 2007

Hungry fans rebel at Pan American Games

Lack of infrastructure in the Pan American Games venues upset fans in the first two days of competition.

Traffic jams and difficulties buying food and finding bathrooms inside the venues prompted about 100 fans to protest to organisers on Friday. ”We want to eat! We want to eat!” they chanted at the Riocentro complex after the handball match between Brazil and Mexico.

The concession stands available to the public were all closed, forcing fans to try to enter the press area and attempt to get food.

”This is ridiculous,” said 21-year-old fan Vania Almeida. ”How can they do something like this? There are not enough places to eat to begin with, and they are all closed. They can’t treat us like this; we paid to get in.”

Also, the only two bathrooms at the gymnasium were reserved for VIPs, in a complex usually used for conventions and fairs.

”It makes no sense at all,” said 19-year-old Vanessa Fonseca. ”The least they can do is give us a place to eat and a place to go to the bathroom.”

Not even workers setting up the sponsors’ tents at Riocentro were spared. ”We have to walk half an hour to get food or go to a bathroom,” said Juliana Braga, who works for Samsung, one of the Pan Ams’ official sponsors.

”We are working to solve the problem,” said Marcelo Fefer, who is in charge of the Riocentro press centre.

Problems also occurred on Thursday at the new Joao Havelange Stadium, which reportedly cost nearly 400-million reals ($211-million).

Although only about 5 000 fans attended the soccer matches at the 45 000-capacity stadium, fans faced traffic jams and up to two hours in line to buy tickets. The few concession stands did not open until the match was under way, and the stores selling official Pan Ams products had empty shelves.

The opening ceremonies were scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon, but the women’s soccer competition began a day earlier to accommodate its long schedule.

There was also a protest by about 2 000 people linked to social movements in front of Rio’s City Hall. They protested against the billions of reals spent on the event, according to the Agencia Brasil news service.

Four handball matches were played early on Friday, with defending champion Brazil routing Mexico 38-15. Daniela Piedade and Juceli Rosa scored six goals each for the local favourites.

Also, Cuba beat Canada 38-25 behind 11 goals from Suleiky Gomez Hernandez, and the Dominican Republic edged Paraguay 33-30 with 11 goals by Judith Granados Brito. Later, Argentina — runners-up to Brazil in 2003 — trashed Puerto Rico 39-14.

More than 1 000 doping tests will be conducted at the Pan Ams, said Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. At least 200 already have been done, with three Mexican athletes and a Brazilian volleyball player suspended after testing positive. — Sapa-AP