CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Thomas Bach has insisted that Rio de Janeiro owes significant strides in terms of social infrastructure to its hosting of the first Olympic Games in South America.
The president of the International Olympic Committee was addressing the opening ceremony of the IOC Session [congress] which takes place over the next two days ahead of the Games launch on Friday night.
As usual, the Games have been preceded by the standard horror tales about late and incomplete preparation, broken organisational promises and funding overruns.
One recent poll claimed 60pc of Brazilians believe the Games will do more harm than good.
In addition the run-up to the 2016 Olympics has been swamped by the Russian doping cover-up crisis.
Bach conceded that Rio officials and organisers had undergone a difficult seven years since winning the IOC vote in Copenhagen in 2009, troubled times exacerbated by the domestic political and economic crises.
He said: “It has been a long and testing journey to get to this point. It is no exaggeration to say that the Brazilians have been living through extraordinary times.
“The political and economic crisis in the country is unprecedented. It goes without saying that this situation has made the final preparations for the Olympic Games challenging.”
However, looking on the bright side, he said: “Rio de Janeiro would not be where it is today, without the Olympic Games as a catalyst. History will talk about a Rio de Janeiro before the Olympic Games and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games.”
The transformation of the city had been “truly historic” and now, at last, “as the world’s attention finally turns to the athletes and the competitions, all of us feel the anticipation building . . . the Cariocas are ready, the Brazilians are ready, the venues are ready and, most importantly, the athletes are ready.”
The first Olympics to be staged in South America take place only two months after the
Rio state, responsible for about a quarter of the $12.2bn funding, declared a fiscal emergency and needed a federal bail-out to pay pensions and civil servants.
More than 85,000 security personnel are being deployed throughout the city to keep crime levels under control while the crucial metro line to the Olympic Park was opened only on Monday.
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