Olympics serves Rio better than World Cup: Mayor Paes

Rio de Janeiro, April 27 (IANS) With Olympics only 100 days away, Rio city mayor Eduardo Paes has said the Games will bring more benefits to the city than the Football World Cup two years ago.

“There is a common sense — valued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) 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 on Tuesday, reports 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 centred 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, urbanisation, 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.

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 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.

–IANS

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