SÃO PAULO – Preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro are the ‘worst’ ever seen, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president said on Tuesday.
The majority of the Olympic events, which begin in August 2016, will be held at four sites around Rio, but construction of some of the venues has not yet started, the IOC said.
“They are the worst I have experienced,” IOC vice president John Coates said of Brazil’s preparations at an Olympics Forum in Sydney.
Having made six official visits to Rio, Coates said the “unprecedented” action of placing IOC experts within the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee would ensure the Games went ahead.
“The IOC has adopted a more hands-on role; it is unprecedented for the IOC but there is no plan B,” Coates said. “We are going to Rio.”
Addressing the comments, Rio mayor Eduardo Paes said on Tuesday that Rio had to take the criticism:
“We have to work with great zeal and dedication to get everything delivered correctly.”
However, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee issued a statement saying that the time for criticism over the progress of preparations had now “passed”:
“It is time for us to focus on the work to be done and on engaging with society,” it said, pointing to recent “crucial developments” and “unequivocal signs of progress” in the tendering process for the Deodoro Olympic Park venue and the announcement of the budget for infrastructure and legacy projects.
“Rio will host excellent Games that will be delivered absolutely within the agreed timelines and budgets,” Rio 2016 said.
World Cup woes to boot
Coates said that the situation in Rio was “worse than Athens,” which was lambasted repeatedly for its problematic lead-up to the 2004 Olympics. IOC President Juan Samaranch even threatened to take the Games away from the city at the time.
Preparations for the 2016 Games have so far been beset by delays, a swelling price tag and lack of liaising between the different strands of government responsible for funding and organisation.
More recently concerns have been raised about security in Rio, as ongoing run-ins between police and criminals in the city’s many slums have continued to result in near-daily fatal shootings.
Rio was awarded the hosting rights to the 2016 Games in October 2009, giving it just under seven years to build the required venues and install sorely-needed improvements to the city’s infrastructure.
At that point Brazil had already been awarded the 2014 World Cup, which kicks off in a little over six weeks’ time. That event has had the same amount of time to prepare 12 stadiums around the country, but has been equally beset by delays and budget overruns.
Only six stadiums were delivered on time, with many infrastructure projects scaled back or scrapped. Construction at the São Paulo stadium hosting the opening match stadium will go to the wire.
In addition to the public embarrassment endured over delays to get World Cup stadiums and related projects ready on time for the 600,000 foreign visitors expected to attend, Brazil now has a painfully long to-do list for the 2016 Olympics.
Rio recently announced readjusted cost forecasts for the Olympic event of 36.7 billion reais (US$16.5 billion), around 25% more than the original budget. Part of the readjustment is due to inflation.
The new budget includes around US$10 billion for 27 infrastructure projects, but excludes around half of the total list of 52 projects and facilities yet to gain approval.
Among infrastructure plans are a fourth metro line, work on sanitation systems, and the TransCarioca rapid bus link between the Olympic Village and the city’s main international airport, situated 23 kilometres away on the other side of the city.