A senior International Olympic Committee official said Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 summer games are the worst he’s ever seen.
John Coates, an IOC vice president from Australia who’s been involved with Olympic sports for almost 40 years, said the situation in Rio has become “critical” and preparations are even worse than those for Athens, which was still completing venues on the eve of the event in 2004.
“The situation is critical on the ground,” Coates, who’s been on six inspection visits to Rio, told an Olympic Forum in Sydney. “We have become very concerned. They are not ready in many, many ways. We have to make it happen and that is the IOC’s approach. You can’t walk away from this.”
Rio’s Olympic preparation has been beset by issues including disagreement between municipal, state and federal governments over the division of costs. That led to a delay in establishing a budget and the start of construction work at some venues.
Earlier this month workers on the Olympic Park staged a two-week strike over pay and conditions. The heads of several sports federations complained about the lack of progress in Rio.
In its successful bid Rio had said the games would cost about $15 billion. Since then, organizers and politicians have said the amount directly being spent on the games will be lower amid public anger on the amount of money being diverted to stage this year’s soccer World Cup. The bill for that event is $11 billion.
IOC President Thomas Bach has sent Gilbert Felli, the organization’s outgoing executive director of Olympic Games, to Rio to oversee preparations. Other experts are also being dispatched to South America’s biggest country.
“The IOC has formed a special task force to try and speed up the preparations but the situation is critical on the ground,” Coates said in comments published on the Australian Olympic Committee’s website. “The IOC has adopted a more ‘hands-on’ role. It is unprecedented for the IOC but there is no Plan B. We are going to Rio.”
Organizers of the games yesterday pointed to the start of the tender process for a much-delayed Olympic cluster in the north of the city and the publication of the budget as signs they’re moving forward.
Time to Focus
“The time has now passed when general discussions about the progress of preparations contribute to the journey towards the Games,” Rio 2016 said in a statement. “It is time for us to focus on the work to be done and on engaging with society.”
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has downplayed the concerns. On April 17, he said planning was on track and welcomed the arrival of the IOC’s task force to the city.
“Their presence is very good, because we are going to show them we have no reason for concern,” Paes said.
The Rio games have three budgets. Organizing the event itself will cost 7 billion reais ($3.2 billion), with another 5.6 billion reais going toward infrastructure directly linked to the games.
The local and national governments have also unveiled plans for transportation upgrades and other costs totaling 24.1 billion reais. The total costs will rise when more projects come on stream, and are already higher than the 28.9 billion reais Rio presented in its successful 2009 bid.