Australian Olympic boss Kitty Chiller crossed paths with brazen Brazilian thieves who stole Zika- protective shirts during a fire evacuation, when a laptop was also stolen.
Other computer equipment of the Australian team was also rifled through on Friday in the athletes’ village, when a fire in the basement of the Australian building forced the team members to evacuate their rooms.
About 100 team members were evacuated for about 30 minutes during the fire, which is when the thefts happened.
Three or four Australian shirts, designed to protect athletes from the Zika virus, were stolen.
The Australian chef de mission initially thought they were firefighters who may have been given team shirts by Australians as thanks for helping them evacuate.
“I saw three fire [fighters] … walking out with our team shirts,” she said.
“I don’t know who they were … I didn’t know if they were volunteers that had been given a shirt because they had helped us at that point in time.
“It doesn’t seem to have been what happened.”
A cycling official had a laptop stolen from a fifth-floor room during the evacuation but Chiller was uncertain if it contained any sensitive team information.
“Our IT equipment in our operational space had also been rifled through but nothing had been stolen,” she said.
“I’m not accusing anybody but there’s a lot of non-accredited, if you like, workers, cleaners, housekeepers, maintenance workers, still walking around.
“And unfortunately in an area that size with the number of buildings and number of rooms there are, unfortunately theft is going to be inevitable.”
The thefts are another headache for Australian hierarchy, who suspect the fire was caused by a cigarette tossed by a local worker into piles of rubbish in the basement.
The fire alarms in the building had been deactivated without Australian officials being told and veteran shooter Warren Potent revealed he slept through the scare, not woken by door knocking or phone calls.
“Obviously that is completely unacceptable that (a) the fire alarm was disabled and (b) that if it had to be, that we weren’t warned about that,” Australian chef de mission Kitty Chiller said.
There had been “numerous people” given approval to deactivate the alarms – now there would be just one, she said.
And Australia had now elected fire wardens on each of the 18 floors of the building.