- Associated Press - Monday, July 23, 2012

As soon as the London Games end, the focus will shift to South America where, in 2016, the Olympics will be staged for the first time.

Rio should be in a good position to deliver the goods, especially because it is preparing to host the 2014 World Cup and is taking advantage of some of the infrastructure and sporting venues built for the 2007 Pan American Games.

Still, it faces many challenges.

Ongoing legal disputes, a worrisome hotel infrastructure and the large number of projects needed to be carried out simultaneously as the games approach are some of the obstacles that could end up derailing some of the city’s plans. Although the International Olympic Committee says Rio has made great strides in its preparations, it has just warned organizers that the deadlines are getting tighter and the workload is increasing.

“There is a large volume of work that needs to be accomplished between now and 2016,” said Nawal El Moutawakel, leader of the IOC coordination commission for the Rio Games. “There is no time to waste.”

More than 230 projects will have to be completed by the 2016 Games, and 66 are finished or are in an advanced stage. Many of the projects are scheduled to begin in 2013, and all of the sports venues must be ready between mid-2015 and early 2016 for test events, according to the Olympic Committee, which, beginning next year, will start making two annual visits to inspect the city’s preparations.

“The challenges become greater as the project advances,” said Leonardo Gryner, Rio 2016 organizing committee chief executive officer.

“It’s always critical when you have to do a lot of things at the same time. When you have many projects simultaneously, you take more risks. But we remain confident. We are working to make sure we can anticipate the problems and take the necessary measures to keep preparations on track.”

Rooms at the inns

For organizers, one of the biggest concerns from the beginning has been to make sure the city will have enough hotel rooms to accommodate the tens of thousands of visitors, officials and members of the media.

The Olympic Committee said that despite a strong interest in new hotel projects in Rio, a “large number” still need to be put into place to “fill the gap” presented at the time of the bid.

“This has always been our weakness since the bid,” Mr. Gryner said. “There’s been an increase in the number of hotels already, and it’s continuing to increase. In the beginning of next year, we will look at what we have and evaluate how many rooms we will have to provide in new accommodation villages.”

The number of housing villages to be constructed will depend on the availability of hotel rooms expected in 2016. Cruise ships also will help ease the problem after the expected construction of a pier and port upgrade in the city.

The IOC said the project of the port can be considered one of the priorities for local organizers, along with setting the deadlines and establishing the work needed for the Olympic Park and the Deodoro complex, which will host several sporting venues.

“All Olympic projects have a priority,” committee executive director Gilbert Felli said.

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