Cyprus Mail

Let the Games begin

Proud moment: Mayor Eduardo Paes carries the Olympic torch in Rio de Janeiro ahead of Friday night’s opening ceremony

RIO de Janeiro Olympics organisers remained under pressure to deliver a successful Games with questions over water quality, traffic and security dominating the final progress report to the IOC.

The first Olympics in South America begin on Friday and organisers are still rushing to complete venues and clean waters where swimmers, rowers and sailors will compete.

Preparations have been severely hit by the worst economic crisis in the country since the 1930s and political turmoil.

“We have seen the difficulties and have always been in solidarity and now we have to deliver together great Games in great unity,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told organisers.

“All praise is premature now and it can be left for August 21 (closing ceremony). It’s delivery time now and here we go.”

The presentation of Games chief Carlos Nuzman and his executives was peppered with concerns from IOC members over the water quality in the lagoon and the Guanabara Bay as well as a lack of Olympic signage at stadiums.

Organisers admitted they were working hard to improve the water quality that has been a major headache for competitors due to heavy pollution.
They also said the company producing banners had been late in delivering them and it could take days before the stadiums display the Olympic and Rio Games logos for visitors to see.

IOC members also grilled organisers over long security checks, notorious Rio traffic jams and funding.

Rio 2016 CEO Sidney Levy said those three issues were his biggest concerns with the opening ceremony less than 24 hours away.
Transportation from Barra de Tijuca where the main Olympic park is located to central Rio and the Copacabana can take several hours during rush hour traffic.

“It is a real challenge how we will transport our people (from Barra to Copacabana),” Levy told the IOC.
He said finding “the right balance between light security and heavy security” that creates long queues and has angered athletes.
“Finance, it has been very hard to balance that,” Levy said.

Despite the setbacks during preparations and the IOC assisting organisers financially by fronting part of their contribution that was to be paid after the Games, Bach believes the Games will be a success.

“We are very confident we will celebrate great Games here in Rio and the world will be surprised to see what will happen here in the next two and a half weeks,” Bach said.

Only 28 heads of state and government meanwhile have confirmed their attendance at the Olympics, far fewer than the 50 expected by organisers last week, Brazilian government sources told Reuters.

With Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff suspended from office pending her trial in the Senate on charges of breaking budget rules, there have been no requests so far for bilateral meetings with interim President Michel Temer in Rio, the sources said.

Among fellow Latin American countries, only the presidents of Argentina and Paraguay have confirmed their presence at the Games, which run from August 5-21. China is sending its vice premier, despite its close trading relationship with Brazil, three sources said.

French President Francois Hollande, whose country is bidding to host the 2024 Olympics in Paris, will attend, as will the heads of state of Portugal and Germany.

The US delegation will be led by Secretary of State John Kerry, who is due to have a bilateral meeting with his Brazilian counterpart Jose Serra.

Temer, the former vice-president, told reporters in a recent interview that he intended to keep a low international profile until the conclusion of Rousseff’s trial at the end of August following the conclusion of the Olympics.

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