LAUSANNE: Thomas Bach has put a positive and brave face on Rio de Janeiro’s ability to stage the summer Olympic Games despite the flood of crises confronting both Brazil and the city writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Rio success in winning staging rights to the Games in 2009 was greeted with euphoria at the prospect of making history as the first host city in South America.
Over the past three years, however, the government of Dilma Rousseff has slipped from one crisis to another. Anger over a perceived failure to invest in social support system marred the run-up to the FIFA World Cup in 2014 was followed by a corruption scandal focused around state energy giant Petrobras which has prompted a threat of impeachment to President Rousseff.
An accompanying national economic crisis prompted budget cuts by the Rio organising committee which had to trim infrastructure plans including an over-ambitious plan to clean up Guanabara Bay which will host the sailing events.
On top of all this the country is having to confront a health crisis concerning the zika virus which has prompted a number of competitors, officials and fans to consider giving the Games a miss.
Bach insisted, however, that Rio will stage “a great and very successful Olympic Games.”
Working through a litany of problems, he sought to take a positive view, beginning: “We have received a comprehensive and clear and encouraging report from the organising committee.
“The mayor informed us that pubic support in Rio is over 70pc – a remarkable figure a couple of months before the Games when work is still going on and considering the difficult situation in Brazil with all these crises in different areas.
“The international federations, national Olympic committees and the IOC have recognised the very difficult situation of the country and that the reasons are beyond the influence of the organising committee.”
Local organisers, said Bach, had addressed “this exceptional situation in an exceptional way.”
Test events “went well” and a project to install ecobarriers to address water quality fears was moving ahead at speed.
As far as the zika virus was concerned, Bach said the IOC had “received renewed assurances about measure being taken by the organising committee and by the authorities.”
Close co-operation had been established between the Rio organisers, the Brazilian authories, the IOC and the World Health Organisation.
Bach assured a news conference that the key metro Linha 4 at the heart of the Olympic network would be open in July as planned and despite fears it might not be ready in time.
He also dismissed concerns about a slow take-up of tickets, saying: “I have no concerns because this is a different culture. Brazilians do not buy tickets at such an early stage as the British or Germans and so there is no concern.
“We had comparable figures before Athens and other Olympic Games and, given the great support of the Brazilians for these Olympic Games, I have no dout tnat when the time comes these numbers will increase.
“Altogether we are even more confident that we will celebrate together a great and very successful Olympic Games.”
The Olympic flame will be lit in the now-traditional ceremony at Ancient Olympia in Greece on April 21 ahead of a torch relay throughout all of Brazil.