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NEWS FEATURE Headaches for organizers continue as Rio Olympics draw closer By Georg Ismar, dpa

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Brazil celebrated when Rio de Janeiro landed the first Olympics in South America in 2009. But with the 2016 Games approaching quickly, a more subdued view is being taken as financial risks remain along with pollution and other concerns.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Eduardo Paes is these days hobbling to appointments on crutches after breaking his foot, while dancing at a Christmas party.

But this is only the latest problem for the Rio de Janeiro mayor who faces protests over a supply crisis at local hospitals and has the first Olympics in South America approaching quickly.

While with little over 200 days left until the opening ceremony of the August 5-21 Games most of the venues are completed at Olympic Park in Barra and elsewhere, it is other issues that are creating headaches for the organizing committee.

They range from polluted waters at the sailing venue to Brazil‘s real currency losing value compared to the dollar - the latter being the main currency for the majority of the bills.

While the overall costs are around 38.7 billion real, the Games budget has been capped at 7.4 billion real, which used to be around 2.2 billion dollars not so long ago but now only 1.86 billion dollars.

The sum does not cover infrastructure but rather the costs for the opening and closing ceremony, accommodation, transport and bureaucracy.

Communications chief Mario Andrade has suggested that athletes should pay for the use of air conditioning in the Olympic village; less television sets may be installed there; and savings could also hit the opening ceremony which traditionally attracts a television audience of billions.

Andrade‘s idea did not go down well, and spokesman Lucas Dantas was swift to say that "we will have air conditioning installed in every apartment" and that "no athlete will have to pay for it." The 70,000 volunteers will also be present as planned.

Paes meanwhile says he wants sustainable Games following the example of Barcelona 1992, Games with a justifiable budget, city development and an ensuing tourist boom.

While Barcelona rediscovered its location on the Mediterranean Sea through the Olympics, the Barra region some 40 kilometres from the Copacabana is part of expanding the city of 6.5 million.

Most sports such as swimming, track cycling, handball, basketball, gymnastics and tennis take place there, the athletes‘ village is in Barra and the international broadcast and media centres as well.

New housing is to be provided to the locals after the Games but there have also been complaints about repression from the military police from those living in the adjacent Favela Vila Autodromo.

More than 50 per cent of the overall budget comes from private funding, and Rio is determined to avoid white elephants as after Athens 2004 or even the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil after which not all arenas were used.

As a result, Rio 2016 has no real Olympic stadium and events are spread all across the city.

The opening and closing ceremonies are in the famed Maracana while Usain Bolt and company will have the athletics events in the 60,000-seat arena of the Botafogo football club.

With 2016 just around the corner, organizers are looking a five areas bearing risks in the final run-up.

Brazil‘s economic problems continue, a corruption affair has kept justice authorities busy since 2014, the metro link to Barra may not be completed in time, the home team has only modest hopes of doing well in the Olympic medal table, and the environmental problems at the Guanabara Bay sailing venue continue.

Dawid Danilo Bartelt, who chairs the Heinrich-Boell-Foundation, is sceptical about an Olympic legacy, saying that grand promises around the 2014 World Cup never materialised and that the "economical and social costs (for that event) will continue long-term."

Bartelt expects only a few investors and construction companies to profit from Olympics even though new metro and bus links are set up. At the same time thousands are driven out of their districts which generates social tension.

Some 85,000 security forces are to safeguard the Games, and their presence can already be felt.

Regardless, Rio de Janeiro will be the centre of the world for 16 days in August, and the locals have managed to turn around seemingly negative things before with their famed "tudo bem" (all good) attitude.



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