- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2007

Brazil is the hot spot this summer for international track and field.

The 2007 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships just finished in Sao Paulo, and the third IBSA (International Blind Sports Federation) World Championships and Games will be there later this month. The 2007 Pan American Games just began in Rio de Janeiro, and will be followed by the 2007 Parapan American Games for Paralympians.

There are some beautiful places in Brazil, but just one look at the U.S. Department of State Web site tells me I would not risk my life for a meet in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

“Crime throughout Brazil has reached very high levels,” the site reports. “The Brazilian police and the Brazilian press report that the rate of crime continues to rise, especially in the major urban centers — though it is also spreading in rural areas. Brazil’s murder rate is several times higher than that of the U.S. Rates for other crimes are similarly high. The majority of crimes are not solved. There were several reported rapes against American citizens in 2006.

“Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike, especially in the evenings and late at night. Foreign tourists are often targets of crime and Americans are not exempt. This targeting occurs in all tourist areas but is especially problematic in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador.”

Rio de Janeiro, specifically, continues to experience a high incidence of crime, including street thefts and robberies of tourists. The city has a reputation for violence with dozens of victims killed every week in assaults, with stray bullets and through narcoterrorism. That situation has worsened because of drug-traffic warfare in which police fight against well-armed outlaws.

Reuters reported Thursday that a 16-year-old soccer player was shot in the chest Wednesday while cooking breakfast in his home by a stray bullet fired in a shootout between Rio de Janeiro police and drug traffickers, adding to the concerns about public safety at the 17-day Pan Am Games.

Both Rio de Janeiro City and Sao Paulo, the host of the 1963 Pan Am Games, have high incidents of armed robbery of pedestrians at stoplights.

The State Department even reports some strange and dangerous activities.

“There are regular reports of young women slipping knockout drops in men’s drinks and robbing them of all their belongings while they are unconscious,” the report said.

Not to leave out the guys, “Armed holdups of pedestrians and motorists by young men on motorcycles (“motoboys”) are an increasingly common occurrence in some parts of Sao Paulo. Victims who resist risk being shot,” according to the report.

Carrying well-concealed cash and not using credit or debit cards are good ideas. The State Department has warned that “travelers using personal ATMs or credit cards sometimes receive billing statements with non-authorized charges after returning from Brazil. The Embassy and Consulates have received numerous reports from both official Americans and tourists who have had their cards cloned or duplicated without their knowledge.”

Now why should an American citizen go all the way to Brazil to be treated like that? Shouldn’t safety of athletes and fans be an important part of the bid?

The last time the Pan Am Games were in the United States was in 1987, when they came to Indianapolis.

Just a mile — The Annapolis Striders’ John Wall Memorial One Mile Track Race will be at 8 a.m. on Saturday at Broadneck High School in Annapolis. Check out this morning of self-seeded mile races at www.annapolisstriders.org.

Cheating does not pay — Friday, the Boston Athletic Association removed seventh-place female Lyubov Denisova of Russia from the 2007 Boston Marathon results because she failed an out-of-competition drug test (elevated testosterone level and positive test for Prostanozol) conducted on March 20, 2007.

Denisova now faces a two-year ban from competition. But the women who finished behind her will receive extra prize money from moving up in the results.