Welcome to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro! Rio: A place of sun, fun…and getting mugged by a guy with a gun.
Four U.S. swimmers were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning by men who flashed a police badge before ordering the athletes to lie on the ground.
The International Olympic Committee denied that a robbery occurred, saying of the incident that it was “absolutely not true.”
U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen were robbed at gunpoint while in Rio de Janeiro overnight Saturday, NBC News has confirmed.
Following conflicting reports — including the IOC denying any incident took place — Lochte himself confirmed with TODAY’s Billy Bush that he and the other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint.
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte said. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, “Get down,” and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky later told NBC News in a statement: “According to four members of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team (Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte), they left France House early Sunday morning in a taxi headed for the Olympic Village. Their taxi was stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes’ money and other personal belongings. All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities.”
Police officials told NBC News they weren’t contacted about the incident but they were available to help the athletes if necessary.
Lochte’s mom had earlier told other news organizations that the robbery happened at a party.
“I think they’re all shaken up. There were a few of them,” Ileana Lochte told USA Today. “No, they were just, they just took their wallets and basically that was it.”
While it’s unlikely that the muggers were cops, you never know. Robbing tourists is a national pastime in many South American cities, and cops — notoriously underpaid — have been known to shake down and even rob visitors.
By this time, Olympic authorities are probably wishing they had chosen some other city. Problems with rancid pools (diving pool “smells like farts”), missing or absent volunteers, and several other security incidents are making the games a disaster, despite trying to put the best face on the situation.
It will be a long time before the games are given to another “developing” country.