Rio Diaries: Yes, A Bullet Came Through the Media Center Roof Today

A swarm of police officers standing outside the door to the media center. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Not the scene you want to see outside the media center … Photo by Jenni Autry.

I published my first blog from Rio yesterday singing the city’s praises, so naturally a bullet was shot from some unknown location and came through the roof of the media center tent today. If that all sounds very vague to you, it’s because we don’t have any concrete details on the incident at this point.

Olympic spokesman Mario Andrada confirmed in a security briefing at the media center this evening that “this area was not a target. It was a stray bullet. It did not have to do with the Games.” By then, the media center was crawling with television crews who definitely were not in Deodoro to report on the dressage.

I did not witness the bullet incident because I was ringside in the press tribune at the time.

I did not witness the bullet incident because I was ringside in the press tribune at the time. Photo courtesy of Jane Thompson.

I was not in the media center at the time of the bullet incident, as I was camped out nearby in the press tribune shooting all the photos you’ve seen in EN’s reports, running live updates on Twitter, and interviewing our U.S. and Canadian riders in the mixed zone.

But I immediately knew something was up when Jane Thompson of Horse & Pony Magazine was called into an “emergency meeting” by New Zealand officials due to “an incident in the press tent.” I honestly didn’t think much of it at the time; I was in my bubble typing away at my lunchtime report.

That changed when I headed down to the mixed zone to interview Kathryn Robinson, the first to go after the lunch break, and saw a swarm of Brazilian police officers camped outside the entrance to the media center.

The bullet hole in the media center roof. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The bullet hole in the media center roof. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Pippa Roome of Horse & Hound, who was in the media center when the bullet came through the roof, quickly filled me in on the details. In a proverbial turning of the tables, the members of the media suddenly became the news story. Alice Collins of Horse & Hound and photographer Jon Stroud were both interviewed by major news outlets to recount what happened.

Of course, we are all incredibly grateful that no one was injured.

While the Olympic spokesman would not officially confirm any details about the bullet, this was a high-caliber round of ammunition. One of the plausible theories currently circulating amongst the members of the media is that the bullet came from a military training exercise gone wrong. The equestrian center is right next door to a military base, after all.

I honestly don’t know that we will get any real answers on what happened anytime soon. By tomorrow, the news cycle will be on to the next story. But in the meantime, I’m still left wondering. Beyond that, I question why the vast majority of the journalists and photographers (including me) seemed unconcerned about the debacle. We all kept typing away. No one evacuated the media center.

Why were we all so unperturbed? Can we blame the it-won’t-happen-to-me mentality? Is it because we’re all so desensitized due to reporting on a sport that is all too familiar with horse and human loss? I’m not totally sure, but that’s what I’m mulling over tonight.

Until next time, I still heart Rio. Go Eventing.