There have been plenty of problematic storylines ahead of August’s Rio Olympics, from bodies on beaches to sewage in the water to to suspended doping labs to the Zika virus to police departments so broke they need donations of basic necessities like toilet paper, but few have directly impacted the media who plan to cover the Games in Brazil. A rising tide of thefts of media equipment could pose a rather large problem, though, and that appears to be happening. As Paul Kiernan and Will Connors of The Wall Street Journal report, two German TV networks had a truck filled with their equipment hijacked in Rio Friday:
Thieves hijacked a truck and made off with valuable broadcasting equipment from a pair of German media companies Friday in Rio, highlighting growing security concerns ahead of the Olympics.
The equipment, valued at €400,000 ($445,000), was being transported by truck from Rio’s port to a storage facility when the vehicle and two containers were intercepted, broadcaster ARD said in an emailed statement. The truck was subsequently found.
ARD added that the goods were insured against theft and that, because there is enough time to ship in replacements, the ordeal won’t compromise its ability to cover the Games in August. ZDF, the other German broadcaster that had equipment stolen, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The insurance and the lead time here means this particular case shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the broadcasters (although it’s rough for the insurance company), but the WSJ story adds that other media organizations have also been targeted, as well as athletes training in Brazil ahead of the Games:
A number of foreign media outlets have reported robberies in recent weeks as reporting activity has ramped up ahead of the Olympics, people familiar with the matter say. In one case, some of the equipment was recovered following negotiations with leaders of the community where the theft took place.
Athletes in Rio for training have also been targeted. Last month, two members of Australia’s Paralympic Sailing Team were robbed at gunpoint while riding their bikes in a park near their hotel. Three members of Spain’s sailing team were robbed at gunpoint while walking to breakfast in the hip neighborhood of Santa Teresa in May.
Of course, robberies of media outlets aren’t confined to Brazil. A NBA Entertainment crew in Oakland had over $40,000 of equipment stolen from their truck last year, and that city in particular has seen rising numbers of thieves targeting broadcasters , even those who have security guards. They’re not alone, though; for example, a multi-million dollar production truck set to be used for The Rich Eisen Show was stolen in Miami in 2014. Production equipment is valuable and mobile production setups aren’t always that well-secured, so that can make them a target anywhere, not just in Rio. Still, the rise of media robberies in Brazil has to be yet another concern for journalists and organizations planning to cover the Olympics, and the police not having enough gas for regular patrols likely doesn’t help to deter crime. It’s one more problem in Rio, and far from the most serious out there, but it could have an impact on coverage of the Games.