Friday, February 7, 2014

IOC Chief to Rio: “No Time to Lose”

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia took place on Friday with an abundance of pomp and circumstance.  But with the Summer Olympics two years away, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has increased the pressure on organizers of the summer games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

On Thursday, IOC President Thomas Bach criticized Rio Olympics planners for not making a “great effort to communicate whenever possible” to the Brazilian people.

“There is a good story to tell and Rio needs to tell it to the people to improve support.  We are confident they can achieve this,” said Bach who visited Brazil in January and talked with President Dilma Rousseff.  Nevertheless, he echoed comments made during that trip and warned Rio planners, “Back to work there is no time to lose.”

Bach’s comments followed a progress update by Rio organizers where they promised to deliver all projects as scheduled even though construction could be delayed on their second Olympic park in Deodoro.  Hence, the IOC's head of the coordination commission, Nawal El Moutawakel, noted that there were a “number of unsolved issues remain with regard to the full alignment of government support.”

“Significant and tangible progress has been made. But constant supervision and assistance will be required over the coming months,” said Moutawakel.

The IOC’s actions occurred on the same day that more than 1000 people protested against a 9% fare hike in Rio’s public transport system. 

We won't pay three reais” and “we want FIFA-standard trains,” where some of the slogans shouted by marchers during the protest that started peacefully.  Yet the demonstrations became violent as some protesters that occupied the Central Station transit hub during the evening rush hour clashed with police.  At least seven people were injured as a result of the confrontations including TV Band cameraman Santiago Andrade who was hit with a projectile and is currently hospitalized in serious condition.

Yesterday’s turnout paled in comparison to mass demonstrations held during last year’s Confederations Cup soccer tournament.  Nevertheless, there is widespread discontent in Brazil regarding the spending of billions of dollars in public funds on the Rio Games as well as this summer’s soccer World Cup.

Much like the upcoming Summer Olympics, concerns over stadium construction and infrastructure changes have also dogged organizers of the World Cup.  An accident on Friday once again highlighted these issues:
A worker helping build a World Cup stadium in northern Brazil was killed in an accident today, becoming the sixth construction-related fatality at tournament stadiums as the country struggles to complete preparations before games begin in June…
Brazil is spending 8 billion reais ($3.4 billion) on 12 stadiums for the event, which will be staged in Brazil for the first time since 1950. All six stadiums that were meant to be completed by the end of 2013 missed the FIFA-imposed deadline. That’s led to a rush to ensure they’re ready for the tournament kickoff…
The death toll so far is three times that of 2010 host South Africa, where two construction workers died, according to local media reports. Organizers of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London said there were no fatalities during the construction work for that event.
Video Source– teleSUR via YouTube

Online Sources – Bloomberg; GlobalPost; The Latin Americanist; Reuters; AFP

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