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Night of gunfire in Brazilian slum near Jamaican team hotel heightens security concern

Published:Sunday | July 31, 2016 | 7:03 PM
Watts ... We recognise that in this world and in these large cities you will have these type of situations.

Andre Lowe, Special Projects Editor - Sports

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:
Members of Jamaica’s track and field delegation at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil endured an uncomfortable night on Saturday as gunshots rang out for hours from a favela (a slum in an urban area), which borders their training base accommodations at the Linx Hotel.

While concerned, team manager Ludlow Watts said he had full confidence in the security of the team, noting that the experience was a reminder of the vigilance needed.

He also sought to assure that every step is being taken to ensure the security of the entire delegation.

When the majority of the team returned at close to 6 p.m from their evening training session at a Navy base some 15 minutes away, gunshots could be heard for hours.

It's not clear who was responsible for the shooting, but sirens could be heard in the area for much of the night, as the shooting continued into the early morning.

"We heard the gunshots last night but I don’t think it was anything that would be of threat to us. We recognise that in this world and in these large cities you will have these type of situations," Watts said.

"We are being very careful and we are taking all precautions to ensure that we stay safe and keep away from trouble. We have a lot of security personnel here and driving around with us when we go to training and so on," he added.

Armed security personnel are stationed outside and inside the team’s hotel, which itself has an electrically-charged perimeter fencing and thick grade windows throughout.

The team is also transported under escort in military vehicles, which are reinforced and are guarded by heavily-armed military personnel, while they train.

"At training at CEFAN, it's a military base so they have a high level of security around us, also when we travel to the track and back. We feel no fear or concern or anxiety because they are always there to protect us,” added Watts.

"We are aware of the need to be careful and I believe the athletes have received the message, so I don’t expect any problems but we are mindful that we are to be careful," said Watts.

Several athletes have mentioned the incident but there was a general sense of calm in the camp.