After Sochi, IOC turns attention to delays in Rio
With the Sochi Olympics behind them, IOC leaders are gathering in Turkey this week amid growing alarm over Brazil’s troubled preparations for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Six weeks after the close of the Winter Games in Russia, the International Olympic Committee executive board meets in the Mediterranean resort of Belek to review a wide range of issues — none more urgent than the chronic construction delays that are putting some of Rio’s venue plans at risk.
IOC President Thomas Bach convenes his policy-making board Wednesday for a two-day meeting during SportAccord, an annual global sports industry convention. Also meeting in Belek is the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, whose leaders are deeply concerned about the construction holdups in Rio.
Bach has said repeatedly that Rio “doesn’t have a day to lose” to get ready for South America’s first Olympics, mindful of the continuing delays for this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
The IOC’s coordination commission left Rio last month warning that the games faced “challenging deadlines” and again urging organizers and government officials to get things moving.
Olympic officials said the situation bears similarities to the 2004 Athens Olympics, whose delays became so critical that then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch reprimanded organizers with a “yellow card.” The IOC has so far stopped short of issuing a similar warning for Rio, but the pressure is building.
The timelines are so tight that some sports federations are worried that their venues are in danger of not being completed.
In the past week alone, the head of Olympic planning for Rio’s municipal government resigned, more than 2,000 construction workers went on strike, and Brazilian soldiers stormed a Rio slum in a bid to improve security before the World Cup.
IOC leaders are particularly worried that work has yet to begin on the Deodoro complex, an area in northern Rio which is supposed to house the second largest cluster of Olympic venues.
Work is also way behind schedule on the Olympic golf course. Peter Dawson, president of the international golf federation, said last week that a planned test tournament next year may not take place.
Severe water pollution in Rio’s Guanbara Bay has cast a cloud over the venue for Olympic sailing.
Many of the delays are rooted in disputes among Brazil’s three levels of government, including who pays for what.
A crucial meeting on Olympic spending, which was to have included officials from the office of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, did not take place as scheduled last month. It may be held this week.
Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio organizing committee, and chief executive officer Sidney Levy were due to appear before the IOC board in Turkey this week, but may now stay in Brazil for the meeting and report to the IOC by video conference.
IOC vice president Nawal el Moutawakel, head of the coordination commission for Rio, will present her latest update to the board.
In the meantime, the IOC is planning to send groups of experts into Rio to monitor the project. And Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s long-time executive director of the Olympic Games, has been assigned to work with Rio after he steps down from his post later this year.
The SportAccord and IOC meetings are taking place in Turkey just days after the government lifted a ban on Twitter imposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He blocked access to the social media network two weeks ago after some users posted links on government corruption. It’s not known if Erdogan will attend the conference.
The meetings also come amid uncertain relations between the IOC and SportAccord, led by international judo federation president Marius Vizer. SportAccord is also the umbrella body for Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations.
Vizer has emerged as one of the most powerful figures in the Olympic moment, along with Kuwait’s Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, head of the Association of National Olympic Committees.
The two groups are now collaborating on a proposed World Beach Games, which has received lukewarm support from Bach.
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