'Sense of urgency' on Rio

Updated: 2014-03-23 08:10

By Agence France-Presse in Rio de Janeiro (China Daily)

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Time running out to ensure Games venues up to par, says IOC group

There is not a moment to lose if the 2016 Rio Olympics are to go off smoothly, officials said on Friday after wrapping up their latest visit by identifying a "sense of urgency" surrounding preparations.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission ended a sixth visit to the Brazilian host city with a message to the organizers that every second counts.

Rio will be the first South American host of the Games, but preparations have been characterized, as with those for this June's soccer World Cup, by worries over whether a mass upgrading of the city's facilities will be finished on time.

Concerns remain over transport and accommodation, with news emerging last week that some 3,000 accommodation units due to house media during the event will not be ready in the port area, which is undergoing a huge revamp.

Instead, equivalent accommodation is to be built in the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca, where many of the events will be taking place.

A further concern is the polluted water of Guanabara Bay, where the sailing events will take place. Fecal pollution levels in the area last year were the subject of complaints by visiting sailors.

Guanabara Bay has caused consternation among athletes, with the water quality condemned as "disgusting" by one sailor.

IOC coordination commission chairman Nawal el Moutawakel noted on Friday that authorities have pledged to deliver a huge increase in sewage treatment by 2015.

"There will be a seven-fold increase in treated sewage around the Guanabara Bay by 2015," she said, with sailing test events slated for August serving as an environmental catalyst for city authorities.

There are also concerns over the water quality levels in venues that will host open-water swimming.

With the Winter Games in Sochi over and widely praised by the IOC, Moutawakel said the Olympic spotlight was now "turned fully on Rio".

But she expressed concern that ground is yet to be broken at the Deodoro site in the north of the city.

Her team praised Dedororo's potential, but tenders have yet to be assessed for the area in a less developed part of the city slated to host equestrian events, shooting and modern pentathlon.

Noutawakel said Brazilian government officials would hold a meeting with Games stakeholders in Brasilia next week to determine funding responsibilities for Games-related projects "in order to avoid further significant delays."

In acknowledging delays for some venues - the first tests will come as early as August for the sailing - some were deemed to have "no margin for any further slippages."

That means "a necessary sense of urgency is shared by all" involved, added Moutawakel.

While making no secret of its concerns at the pace of some of the preparations, the IOC Commission praised efforts to leave a long-term legacy for the city, including improvements in public transport links, 75 new hotels and around 11,000 new jobs.

While Moutawakel urged "total focus and dedication" the Games' Organizing Committee president Carlos Nuzman, said: "We enter this crucial phase of our journey without a minute to lose, and certain that our partners in government share this vision.

"We are confident everything will be ready on time."

The coordinators' next visit is set for September - after the World Cup but just a month before general elections.

(China Daily 03/23/2014 page11)