Chinese lantern-style balloon blamed for damage to venue where Great Britain’s cyclists dominated at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games last year.
The velodrome in Rio de Janeiro where Great Britain’s cyclists dominated the track events has been badly damaged by fire, reports O Globo.
The cause of the blaze, which broke out at around half past midnight on Sunday morning, is believed to be a balloon – similar to a Chinese lantern, with a flame keeping it aloft – that landed on the roof of the venue.
No-one was hurt in the incident, which was attended by four appliances from the Brazilian city’s fire service, with firefighters extinguishing the flames by 2.30am, but remaining on site until 8am.
The full extent of the damage is only likely to be revealed after an investigation commissioned by the ministry of sport, which assumed responsibility for the venue after the Olympics.
It does appear, however, that a large section of the track has been badly damaged due to ashes falling from the roof.
There are also said to be concerns over the air conditioning system which normally operates 24 hours a day to keep the track in optimal condition, at a cost of 11 million Brqazilian Reals a year.
Among those reacting with shock to the news on Twitter was cycling commentator Antony McCrossan, who was the English-language announcer at the cycling events in Rio just as he had been in London four years earlier.
Really sorry to hear about the fire at the Rio Olympic velodrome. The scene of so many stunning performances and great memories. https://t.co/fqpTBCK1sb
— Anthony McCrossan (@antmccrossan) July 30, 2017
Brazil’s sorts minister Leonardo Picciani said on Twitter: "A balloon hit the Velodrome. Sad news this morning."
He subsequently posted videos to Twitter showing balloons that had landed in the Barra de Tijuca Olympic Park as well as others still in flight, something he described as “absurd.”
Absurdo! Além do balão que queimou o velódromo varios outros caíram no parque olímpico. pic.twitter.com/RJMJ8c7Nhh
— Leonardo Picciani (@LeoPicciani15) July 30, 2017
Writing on Facebook, he said that the ministry "deeply regrets the incident that happened this morning at the velodrome in the Barra de Tijuca Park and at the same time condemns the criminal practice of releasing balloons."
"The velodrome, legacy of the Brazilian Olympic Games, has been used by athletes and the community of Rio de Janeiro."
He added that he hoped whoever was responsible for releasing the balloon that caused the damage would be held to account for their actions.
Rio’s Olympic Legacy Governance Authority said in a statement that “the practice of releasing balloons is an environmental crime,” but added that it hoped the velodrome would be fully operational again shortly.
Costing 143 million Brazilian Reals, the velodrome was the last of Rio’s Olympic venues to be completed, meaning there was no opportunity to host a test event there ahead of the Games.
Last summer, Team GB won six of the 10 events in the velodrome, while Paralympic GB took eight of the 17 gold medals available.
The venue reopened in May this year.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.