Brazilian Army Trains Motorcycle Escorts for Rio 2016
By Geraldine Cook March 22, 2016
The security and safety of international delegations traveling through the streets of Rio de Janeiro is a big concern of Rio 2016 officials, as is the potential disruption to local traffic and citizens.
The security and safety of international delegations traveling through the streets of Rio de Janeiro is one of the main concerns for the organizers of the 2016 Olympic Games. To ensure that traffic through the region moves safely and efficiently, the Brazilian Armed Forces will provide Military escorts to Olympics delegations and heads of state, and officials are working to minimize the disruption to the civilian population.
Rio, the Olympics’ main host city and Brazil’s second-largest metropolis, has 6.5 million residents and 2.9 million vehicles, and its normally frenetic rhythm will not relax during the competition. The only difference is that public schools will be closed, as the local prefecture has declared a holiday during the Games.
“We are in discussions with public traffic entities to prevent disturbances as much as possible,” said Lieutenant Colonel Sérgio Moraes Ramos Carneiro, Commanding Officer of the Army 1st Guard Battalion (1ºBG), which will coordinate the escorts during the Olympics.
The Armed Forces are preparing the strategy in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice’s Extraordinary Department for Large Events. The plan focuses on providing comfort, flexibility, and protection for foreign delegations, especially the nearly 170 heads of state who have confirmed they will attend the world’s largest sporting event. The Armed Forces will deploy a Platoon of 160 convoy motorcyclists, whose mission is to escort the motorcades.
The 1ºBG is currently in process of forming new escort teams. Lt. Col. Sérgio Ramos has trained two classes, consisting of 30 total new escorts, already this year. “The failure rate is high, around 40 percent, because the course is very technically demanding,” he said.
Most of the travel that requires escorts will be conducted on August 5th, the day of the Olympics’ opening ceremony. “We have 108 heads of states, referred to as VVIP (Very Very Important Person) who arrive that day,” Lt. Col. Sérgio Ramos stated. About 70 motorcades are scheduled for August 21st, the day of the closing ceremonies.
“It is a lot to do in a short period of time but we are ready for it,” he said. The Military will deploy 70 riders as escorts from the 1º BG, 40 from the Army Police Battalion, 16 from the Presidential Guard Battalion in Brasília, and others from the Southern Military Command in Porto Alegre, the Air Force Police, and the Marine Corps’ Independent Police Company.
“Olympic lanes” – traffic lanes that will be marked for the exclusive use of motorcades – are currently being created. The goal is to route the delegations through these express routes: Linha Vermelha (Red Line), Linha Amarela (Yellow Line), and Avenida Brasil.
“We do not want the whole city of Rio to come to a halt,” Lt. Col. Sérgio Ramos stated. “Imagine escorting 108 motorcades in just one day. We are thinking about providing an escort to one point, where [all escorted] authorities would [then] board a bus, which will transport all of them [to the Olympic venues], to avoid disturbances in urban commutes. This is [still] under negotiation.”
In addition to minimizing the impact on Rio’s traffic, convoys will provide security. “As soon as the escort arrives, the person who is being transported requires protection,” Lt. Col. Sérgio Ramos explained. “Stopping the motorcade along the route or in a dangerous neighborhood means exposing the official to an attack or an activity that could cause injury. If suddenly someone with criminal intent or someone seeking to disturb the peace […] gets out of a car and pulls out a gun and opens fire on the motorcade, the escort rider will need to intervene. So the course has a shooting techniques element in addition to motorcycle riding.”
Highly trained escorts
An escort’s work requires a good deal of skill and concentration, according to Lt. Col. Sérgio Ramos. “The escort rider is three people rolled into one. He is a skilled motorcyclist, a responsible traffic officer, and a security agent on the lookout for any suspicious movement along the road from the point of origin to the motorcade’s destination.”
Escorts must have expert driving skills, motor coordination, physical vigor, intelligence, courage, and the ability to brake at a high speeds without fishtailing and make quick decisions, he stated. “A rider goes from zero to 100 kilometers per hour in six seconds. The motorcycles can reach 150 km/h, and the motorcyclist must determine from a distance which road he will need to block. He will stop, get off the motorcycle, and stop traffic. All of this must be done quickly, without compromising the security of the official or the motorcade, and without causing an accident. This requires extremely focused attention.”
Each escort will be carry 10 kilograms of equipment, including a fireproof leather jacket, a helmet, gloves, knee-high boots, elbow pads, and a back brace. “Safety equipment is the top priority because we can buy another motorcycle but not another motorcyclist,” Lt. Col. Sérgio Ramos said.
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