One down, one to go: Rio Olympics next for Brazil

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 15, 2014 at 4:42 pm •  Published: July 15, 2014
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil just pulled off the World Cup. Next up is Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympics, which poses an even bigger challenge.

Cement trucks are busy, creating billowing dust clouds, and girders are rising along Avenida Embaixador Abelardo Bueno, the road running in front of the main Olympic Park in the suburb of Barra da Tijuca.

"It's going, it's going," said a worker at the construction site, wearing an orange helmet, blue overalls and introducing himself as Mauricio Lima.

Rust-orange beams sprouted behind him as he talked, a superstructure that in two years will become the Olympic media and broadcast centers.

"There is a lot to do, but things are moving," he added.

The World Cup overcame fears about protests, half-finished stadiums and chaotic transport to deliver an exciting tournament that culminated with Germany's 1-0 victory over Argentina in extra time in the final.

Brazil's humiliating 7-1 loss against Germany in the semifinals was a blow to the home country, and the collapse a week ago of an overpass — part of a World Cup project in the southeast city of Belo Horizonte — killed two people. Eight workers died in World Cup stadium construction accidents.

Rio's Olympics have had their own problems.

A few months ago, International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates called the city's preparations the "worst" in memory. Other IOC members openly lambasted Rio. In response, the IOC sent in executive director Gilbert Felli to work as a troubleshooter.

His presence has helped, and Felli expects most projects back on schedule by September.

"I'd like to be clear," Felli said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Until the games are delivered I'm always concerned. But it's not the case to say we're not going to make it. It's not possible that we won't make it."

Felli believes the World Cup gave the Olympics a boost.

"The perception of the Brazilians is much more positive," Felli said. "It's good for the games. They have better trust in themselves to deliver the games. My view is to say ... the Brazilians will deliver excellent games. But we have to work every day for it. Nothing is a done deal."

Deadlines are still tight, and Felli described some as "tense, very tense." The problem areas include:

—a shortage of hotel rooms

—severe water pollution at the sailing venue in Guanabara Bay

—a late start at the second large cluster of venues called Deodoro in northern Rio

—completion of a subway line extension from central Rio to Barra da Tijuca, site of the Olympic Park

—construction of a public golf course several kilometers (miles) from the Olympic Park.

The Rio Games, with events scattered around four venue clusters, could present transportation nightmares in a city cut up by mountains, tunnels and poor roads. About 60 percent of the events will be at Olympic Park, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of central Rio.

The Olympic Park and nearby golf course are being built in a wetlands/swamp area. Small alligators have been spotted wandering around the golf course, and visitors constantly complain about swarming mosquitoes in the Olympic Park area and the neighboring athletes village.

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