Rio de Janeiro set to host 2016 Games
IOC vice-president says situation on the ground is "critical"
John Coates says state of preparation worse than Athens in 2004
Brazil currently preparing to host 2014 World Cup
Brazil is waiting to welcome the world for the biggest football tournament on the planet – but has it taken its eye off the greatest show on earth – the Olympics?
The South American nation was shamed Tuesday after International Olympic Vice President John Coates claimed Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Games was the “worst” he had ever witnessed.
Coates, who has been involved in the Olympics for nearly 40 years, has made six trips to Rio as part of the commission involved in ensuring the Brazilian city is ready to host the Games.
And while the World Cup, which starts on June 12 may take priority, Brazil’s ability to juggle two huge events has been called into question.
“It’s the worst that I’ve experienced,” he said in a statement ahead of a press conference in Sydney, Australia, where he was being asked about preparations for 2016.
“We have become very concerned. They are not ready in many, many ways.
“We have to make it happen and that is the IOC approach. You can’t walk away from this.”
Coates revealed Tuesday that the IOC has taken “unprecedented” action by placing experts in the local organizing committee to ensure the Games go ahead.
But in a statement issued Tuesday, the Rio organizing committee insisted the city will host an “excellent Games that will be delivered absolutely within the agreed timelines and budget.”
The committee also cited the recent announcement of the budget for both infrastructure and legacy projects, as well as the tender process for Olympic Park venues, as signs of progress.
The statement added: “The time has now passed when general discussions about the progress of preparations contribute to the journey towards the Games.
“The work being undertaken in partnership with the three levels of government – federal, state and city – is delivering progress.
“The support of the International Olympic Committee is also crucial. We have a historic mission: to organize the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil and in South America. We are going to achieve this.”
Ongoing concerns have prompted the IOC to agree to increase the frequency of visits – led by Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli – and establish dedicated task forces.
Rio organizers announced earlier this month that Brazil will spend 24.1 billion reais ($10.8 billion) on infrastructure projects to ensure the Games are delivered on time.
City mayor Eduardo Paes also stated that he was looking forward to Felli’s visit saying that there was “no reason for concern” and that the “Olympic Park has nothing delayed.”
But Coates says the delays in construction and the lack of information available means the current state in Rio is worse than that seen in Athens in 2004.
“The IOC has adopted a more hands-on role,” said Coates.
“It is unprecedented for the IOC but there is no Plan B. We are going to Rio.”
But in a statement sent to CNN late Tuesday, the IOC appeared to play down Coates’ comments.
“Working together with our partners in Rio we have put in place a number of measures to support the Games,” said the statement.
“Mr Felli has received a very positive response on the ground in the past few days, and a number of recent developments show that things are moving in the right direction.
“Now is a time to look forward to work together and to deliver great Games for Rio, Brazil and for the world, and not to engage in discussion of the past.
“We continue to believe that Rio is capable of providing outstanding Games.”
The lead up to the Athens Games 10 years ago was marred by construction delays and service delivery, but the venues and infrastructure were delivered on time.
Like Athens, Rio is experiencing similar problems.
The Games, which are being held in South America for the first time in its history, have been beset by delays, soaring costs and bad communication.
Coates has also voiced concerns that the IOC was unable to get the reassurances needed from the local organizing committee.
“No-one is able to give answers at the moment,” he said.
“Can they use the car parks in the village for recovery centers? What will be the time to take from this venue to this venue?
“All of those things, they’re being fobbed off.”
Coates also claimed that only two people were working in Rio’s test event department with tournaments scheduled to start this year.