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Rio Olympics 2016: MMA Fighter abducted by cops in Rio, forced to pay his way out

754   //    26 Jul 2016, 13:05 IST
Jason Lee
Jason Lee (in black) during a jiu-jitsu demonstration

Unsettling news seems to be emanating from Rio De Janiero, the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games, on the eve of the greatest show on Earth. Just 13 days prior to the start of the event, it has emerged that a Kiwi national had been picked up by cops and forced to shell out considerable money in exchange for his freedom.

Jason Lee is a New Zealand-based MMA fighter who had come to Rio in order to train for the martial arts form known as Jiu-Jitsu. Brazil, especially Rio, is almost a Mecca of close-quarter combat styles and regularly attracts the best worldwide. Jason had moved to Rio 10 months ago although he is not a participant in the upcoming Games as jiu-jitsu is not considered an Olympic sport.

Regardless, he is a foreign national, an athlete nonetheless whose safety in Rio has now come under scrutiny. Given that in a few days’ time, Rio will be crawling with hordes of foreigners, both participants and audience, for the marvelous spectacle, it seems to be a point of concern how damaging this is, for the image of the Games and the host city.

Jason claims that he was kidnapped by two police officers who forced him to drive wrong way along the highway, moved him to an unmarked car and forced him to withdraw money from various ATMs.

Jason while speaking to the New Zealand Herald added, “I was threatened with arrest if I did not get in their private car and accompany them to two ATMs to withdraw a large sum of money for a bribe.

“I’m not sure what’s more depressing, the fact this stuff is happening to foreigners so close to the Olympic Games or the fact that Brazilians have to live in a society that enables this absolute bullshit on a daily basis.”

This sets a dangerous precedent of corruption, looting and general danger. The worst part is that the Olympic athletes and fans may have to put up with this for a week or two but the permanent residents have no escape. Such examples are not the first time that a host country or city has been upstaged by their own criminal elements. The South Africa Football World Cup of 2010 or the Brazil World Cup of 2014 both have had echoes of similar incidents during the mega-events.

It seems ironic that Lee, a trained fighter, was not very successful in fending off such an attack, then it leaves little hope for other non-combative sportspeople, let alone ordinary citizens.

This comes just after two members of the Australian Paralympic sailing squad were robbed at gunpoint last month.

Paralympic sailor Liesl Tesch and team official Sarah Ross were confronted by two men while riding their bicycles in at Rio park, Dailymail reported.

One of the men was carrying a pistol and the women were robbed of their bicycles.

As a result, the Australian sports contingent is refusing from moving into the Olympic village due to serious concerns about their safety. With the looming threat of the Zika virus infections already forcing a section of participants to withdraw from the Games, this can only spell further bad news for Rio.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it did not have information on the incident but pointed to its advice section.

“Reports of express kidnappings in Brazil are common in major cities. This is when criminals abduct a victim for a short amount of time and force them to withdraw funds from their bank account. To reduce the risk of this occurring we recommend you use ATMs that are located in public places during daylight hours or ATMs located within bank branches.”

Ignacio Cano, a sociologist at the Violence Studies Lab of Rio de Janeiro State University, said, "2016 has been a very bad year. We have seen a dramatic increase in homicides, robberies and other crimes. We lost a big opportunity to transform police and develop a new public safety model."

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