CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has said that he would not do anything different in the staging of the 2016 Games were he to go through it all again.
Paes was speaking to reporters at the Rio media centre alongside Brazil’s presidential chief of staff Eliseu Padilha to review the controversial staging of the Olympics for the first time in South America.
The buildup to the Games was fraught with negative stories about, amongst other things, construction delays, health fears over Zika, safety issues in Rio and the failure of the state government to clean up the polluted Guanabara Bay by 80pc.
However when asked what he would change about the preparation were he given the opportunity to do it all again, Paes said he would not do anything different.
He said: “Not even in my sweetest dreams when I became mayor, I would never thought Rio would achieve what we achieved. If you look at the bid book , the promises we made from a legacy perspective there was not a subway there was snot the renovation of the port area, there was not so many kilometers of BRT, there was not the drainage system of the Maracana region.
“So I tell you I would od it all over again and I would do it all over again in the same way we did. Obviously there is always mistakes there is always problems that you learn you can solve and you would not commit the mistakes again.”
He continued: “In the end what we get from the Games is an amazing experience so as you know there was a bunch of people telling me not to hand the flag to the governor of Tokyo they wanted me to run with the flag on Sunday and not give it to her, people want the Olympics to stay in Rio forever.”
Many athletes, a number of them golfers, chose not to travel to the Rio Games citing the Zika virus as the reason for staying away. Paes countered their fear though by saying that no cases of Zika were reported at any of the health centres in the city.
The mayor will hope that Zika continues to stay away at the Paralympics which begin on September 5. What is concerning officials about the Paralympics though is the small figures in ticket sales for the event. Last week officials admitted that only 12 per cent of tickets had been sold for the Games which have had budget cuts too due to the organizing committee’s lack of funds.
Paes reiterated his earlier claim that the city would help provide for the event, having last week secured an extra BRL 150 million of funding and helping to get the federal government to bring in up to BRL 100 million of sponsorship for the Games from state run companies.
The mayor said: “Our commitment is for providing an amazing Games and the amount of sales is increasing. I’m really sure that the Paralympics will be full of spectators and we will have a lot of people on the boulevard and we will have lots of concerts and shows in the city.”
Paes also confirmed that plans for how transportation will be run during the Paralympics will be fully detailed in a press conference in Rio next week. It is unclear at present whether the Olympic lanes will be continued and if the extended subway hours will come into effect again.
Meanwhile, the Russian Paralympic team will definitely not be in Rio after it was confirmed on Monday that their appeal against their suspension by the International Paralympic Committee had been rejected by the Court of Arbitration for sport.
The IPC had suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee over strong allegations of state sponsored doping and conducted their own investigation which they said showed the RPC was unable to fulfill its obligation with the World Anti Doping Agency code.