Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

Rio 2016 Olympic Committee Still Owes Vendors Millions

  • Cleaners brandishing brooms protested against organizers
  • International Olympic Committee payment expected in December

Three months after the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics, vendors and fans say they’re still owed money by the local organizing committee. Some contractors and suppliers have threatened to sue over unpaid bills. Last month, 400 workers from a cleaning company brandished brooms in protest outside of the Rio 2016 headquarters.

“They haven’t been in touch to discuss this, or even work out a payment plan,” said Danielle Vasconcelos, the manager of Sunplus. She said the company is owed 8 million reais ($2.36 million) for work performed during the games and hasn’t been able to pay some salaries because of the shortfall.

Rio 2016 promises the money is coming. The committee is expecting a $30 million payment from the International Olympic Committee next month. Rio’s city government also has a 150 million reais fund earmarked for Olympic debts, though payments are contingent on an audit and the release of the committee’s accounts “proving the existence of a deficit,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

“We will make sure everybody gets paid,” Mario Andrada, communications head for the organizing committee, said in an interview. “The picture is better now. There was a little moment of panic.”

About 700 out of 20,000 Olympics suppliers remain as creditors, as do some spectators for returned tickets. Some companies have offered to pare their bills in exchange for speedier payment. “All contracts have some fat,” Andrada said. He didn’t disclose how much money is still owed, but he says 90 percent of the bills will be settled by the end of the year.

The severe national recession put the Olympics in financial jeopardy even before the games started. Plans for the opening ceremony as well as hospitality infrastructure and other non-essential elements were scaled down, and last-minute emergency public funds were sought to stage the Paralympics. Overall, the games cost about $2.8 billion, with the IOC paying a little more than half the cost.

The local organizing committee will disband in June 2017. By then Andrada believes all its debts will be satisfied.

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