Sports / Olympic Games

Rio Olympics better serves the city than World Cup: Rio mayor Paes

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-04-27 09:21

RIO DE JANEIRO - With the Rio Olympics only 100 days away, the city mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes told Xinhua that the Games will bring more benefits to the city than FIFA World Cup two years ago.

"There is a common sense - valued by the International Olympic Committee as well - that hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games is only worth for a city if the event promotes transformations that will benefit its citizens," said Paes in a email interview with Xinhua.

"The Games are an opportunity, the catalyst, for solving questions that had been compromising the quality of life of Rio's citizens for decades."

Before the 2014 World Cup, there were lots of protests in Brazil towards holding such big scale event, while the IOC said that a recent survey shows 70 percent of local people support the Olympics.

"As for the World Cup, there was barely any legacy to the population. The investment was centered in building or revamping stadiums. Rio 2016 Games were planned having the legacy in mind, as previously described, and the message has been clearly sent to the population - who has been taking part in the legacy projects that the event is producing even before the event itself happens," said Paes.

In the Games' preparation, Brazilian government issued the Public Policy Regulation, gathering 27 projects propelled by the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They are infrastructure and public policies projects in the areas of mobility, environment, urbanization, sport, education and culture. Fourteen out of these twenty-seven projects are being carried out by Rio City Hall, ten by the state government and three by the federal government.

"We are promoting a huge transformation in mobility, implementing four BRT lines - and two of them are already in use. From the venues that are ready, I would like to highlight the Future Arena in the Olympic Park - which will be transformed after the Games in four 500-student public schools-; and the Whitewater Stadium in Deodoro - which was already used last summer as a free swimming pool in an area missing leisure options and with a concentration of youngsters. After the Games, the venue will be back to this use," Paes said.

The Olympics will also be an opportunity for people in "Soccer Kingdom" to know more Olympic sports.

"Brazilians love football, and love sports in general - to not only watch and cheer, but also to take part in it. A stroll by the seaside or on Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas shore in Rio is enough to understand this love for sports. I am sure that Cariocas and Brazilians in general are in high expectation for the Games in the most well known Brazilian city abroad," added Paes.

Paes admitted that the current political and economic crisis in Brazil "is part of our reality". "But our country has shown it has mature institutions to deal with it, and as such, there is no influence on the last lap of the Games preparation."

Olympic preparation is entering the final operational phase. However, some international sports federations expressed concerns over problems with venues, including power failures, scoring system, and the absence of sports facility at the gymnastics arena last week.

"Test-events exist for the sole purpose of testing the venues. It allows us to identify the problems and correct them. All the efforts made by the City Hall are directed at discovering eventual problems and correct them before the Games. I am confident that once time comes, during the Games, everything will work properly," Paes said.

He also doesn't worry about the ticket sales. So far, 62 percent of tickets for the Olympic Games have been sold.

"Brazilians tend to buy tickets for cultural or sports events once the date approaches. The semi-finals and finals of various disciplines are already sold out. We are certain that we will see full stadiums and arenas for the Olympic competitions."

Earlier this month IOC chief Thomas Bach guaranteed the Games would be safe for sailing events despite concerns about water quality in Rio's Guanabara Bay.

The Rio government has admitted it won't be able to meet a 2009 pledge to reduce pollution in the bay by 80 percent ahead of the Games.

"The pollution of our water is a theme that is much more important to the citizens than to the athletes. Athletes will spend a few days in our city; we live here," Paes said.

"As for the Games, the authorities are taking every possible step to make sure the athletes' performance is not compromised by whatever reason it might be. Even if the conditions are not the ideal ones, there will be no harm to their performance or their health."

While most of Rio's Olympic sports venues are on track to be completed on time, there have been concerns about delays in new transport links, particularly a new subway line 4 connecting the city to Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca.

Hundreds of engineers and laborers are working around the clock to complete the project before its July deadline.

"When it comes to subway line 4, we are in constant contact with the State Government and we have information that it will be ready to be used by the public during the Games," added Paes.

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