(Transcript from World News Radio)
International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates says Brazil’s preparations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games are critically behind schedule.
At an Olympic forum in Sydney, Coates has told delegates construction has not started on some venues, infrastructure is significantly delayed, and water quality is a major concern.
Abby Dinham has this report.
“From my experience it’s the worst that I’ve experienced, but, again, we just have to make it happen, and that’s the IOC’s approach.”
That is the International Olympic Committee’s vice president, Australia’s John Coates.
The first Games in South America have been plagued by delays, rising costs and bad communication between different levels of Brazil’s government and organisers.
Earlier this month, the Olympic Committee announced a series of measures to lift preparations, including employing extra monitors and sending project managers and experts.
But Brazil has been under the spotlight for the more immediate concern of football’s World Cup finals, starting in June.
Amid problems with stadium construction, labour unrest and security in other parts of the country, thousands of troops were deployed to Rio’s slums in February.
John Coates has made six visits to Rio in recent months.
He says, although Rio organisers have as much staff as London’s Olympic organisers, they lack experience.
“We haven’t had to, as an IOC, send people in like this before. We’ve been struggling to get them to understand the problem. Test events are starting this year, and yet, in the test-event department, there’s two people working. Two people.”
The chef de mission of the Australian Olympic team, Kitty Chiller, says the lack of progress in Rio is concerning.
“To be honest, I hadn’t seen any progress at all in any of the venues, in terms of their construction or finishing. The special concern was the Deodoro zone, which is about half an hour from the Olympic village. There’s nine sports being held out there. And they’re not sports that are easy to (cater to). They’re not temporary stadiums that just need to be put up. We’re talking about slalom, canoe, BMX, mountain bike … the equestrian cross-country course, rugby 7s. So they’re complex venues that need to be established. And, literally, not a blade of grass had moved since I was there in October.”
The IOC says there is no Plan B for the Olympics to be held at a different location if Rio fails to deliver.
But Kitty Chiller says her focus is on putting together a world-class team.
“Rio is what it is. The flame will be lit on the 5th of August, 2016, and the 100 metres will start on time, and the venues will be done by the time, in 827 days, when the Games start. What we need to focus on, and what I ensure as chef de mission that we focus on from an Australian Olympic team point of view, is that that will happen (and) we need to focus on our preparations, on developing our plan and our best preparations, so that we’re best-planned and best-prepared going into Rio.”
Chiller says Brazil is currently putting most of its efforts into hosting the World Cup in June and progress on the Olympics is likely to pick up after that.
Simon Darcy, from the Australian Centre of Olympic Studies at the University of Technology Sydney, says it is not the first time the IOC raised alarm about a country’s preparations.
He says officials were also scrambling ahead of the Athens Games in 2004.
“They were literally still laying the pavement and getting it in place as spectators were coming into the stadium.”
Dr Darcy says a big challenge in Rio will be to ensure a reliable public-transport system is in place for the hundreds of thousands of arrivals to the city during the Games.
He says, although Rio is well-practised in staging festivals like Carnival, hosting an Olympics comes with a whole new set of challenges.
He points especially to security and managing athletes across the venues.
“I think the big thing with Rio, from a social perspective, is you have literally multi-millionaires and billionaires living along the beach strip and then some of the poorest of the poor living in close proximity to these Olympics sites, and it’ll be a very interesting social experiment in Rio.”