RIO DE JANEIRO: Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro, which will host the World Cup final next year and the Olympics in 2016, has tried to mend fences with Brazil’s street protesters through a critical media interview in Brazil writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Paes was speaking after his official residence and his home were besieged at the weekend by protesters against slum clearance programmes set under way amid preparations for the football and the Games.

He had already come under heavy criticism for apparently naive statements about the street protests which erupted all over Brazil during the Confederations Cup in June.

However he stepped away from the sporting and government establishment with his latest comments to investigative journalist Juca Kfouri. The programme is due to be broadcast by ESPN later this week.

Paes criticised the lack of a national sports policy and said that the federal government, not Rio city and state, should be paying for the Olympic infrastructure and its after-care.

Results fear

He  said: “I think it’s a pity that Brazil was awarded the Olympics when it was not ready. It is not the role of city government to meet the high costs. My role is developing access of everyone to sport both through the Olympic facilities and physical education in schools.

“The role of financing high performance athletes should be that of the federal government but I created what I call Team Rio to strengthen a group of medalists that has the capacity to bring medals in the Games.

“I do not think the results will be good, I’m no expert, but I do not think we will do well, but I’ll leave it to Aldo (Rebelo, Minister of Sport) and (Carlos) Nuzman (president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee).

“My responsibility is what happens to the city afterwards.”

Paes also said he had no intention of financing construction of a new headquarters for golf – “a sport that is not popular in Brazil.”