IOC president: ‘Full confidence’ in Rio
BRASILIA, Brazil -- IOC President Thomas Bach met Tuesday with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and said he feels "very confident" in the preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
But Bach acknowledged once again that Brazil has no time to lose and must speed up work for the first Olympics in South America.
Rio’s preparations have been plagued by delays, the late approval of an operating budget and concerns about water pollution in Olympic venues for sailing, canoeing, rowing, and distance swimming.
IOC members have talked openly about their worries and have constantly urged Rio organizers to move faster.
"We are very confident," Bach said after talks with Rousseff in Brasilia. "We’ve seen great progress in the last couple of months. The organizing committee has worked extremely well. But on the other hand, the president (Rousseff) also made it clear that time is key and we don’t have any day to lose."
Bach is making his first visit to Brazil since being elected president of the International Olympic Committee in September.
"I came here in full confidence that these Olympic Games will be exciting and brilliant Olympic Games," Bach said. "After this meeting I can inform you that my confidence is even stronger now because I’m really greatly impressed by the strong commitment of the president to these games and by the leadership she’s showing."
The German was upbeat after meeting with Rousseff and said the Olympics would make Rio an even better city.
"I’m sure that after these Olympic Games the people of Rio and the people of Brazil will say -- like for instance the people of Barcelona or the people of Munich -- there is a Rio de Janeiro before the Olympic Games, and there is an even better city -- if in Rio de Janeiro’s case that is possible -- there is an even better city after the Olympic Games."
After a long delay, Rio organizers are expected in the next few days to announce an operating budget. The original bid document listed the operating budget at $2.8 billion. Bid cities usually underestimate the costs, and observers expect the Rio operating budget to grow.
The operating budget is to run the games themselves. About $11 billion more in public and private money will be spent on games-related projects, costs reflected in a separate capital budget.
"I can assure you this will be a very reasonable operational budget," Bach said. "The organizing committee is working very hard to respect the budget limitations and to make it really reasonable."
Bach is to meet Wednesday in Rio with organizers and government officials.
Disagreements over the budget have gone on for months, with national, state and local governments debating who pays what. This is also an election year with Rousseff facing voters in October.
Public spending on the World Cup and Olympics has become sensitive since protests last year during the Confederations Cup. Many Brazilians ask why billions are spent on two mega sports events when the country lacks good schools and hospitals.
Rio’s chief operating officer, Leo Gryner, said in August that $700 million in public money would be needed to balance the operating budget. Since then, chief executive officer Sidney Levy, who took over a year ago, said the $700 million would not be needed with some new income expected from local sponsorships.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Wade contributed this report from Rio de Janeiro.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.