In an unusually blunt public warning, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday called the delayed preparations for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro “the worst I have experienced.”
John Coates, who has made six trips to Brazil as part of the IOC’s coordination commission for Rio, said the Brazilians are behind “in many, many ways” and are in worse shape than Greek organizers were in preparing for the 2004 Olympics.
Despite the critical delays, the Australian said there is no backup plan and the games will take place in Rio.
“The IOC has formed a special task force to try and speed up preparations but the situation is critical on the ground,” Coates told an Olympic forum in Sydney, outlining that construction delays are just part of the problem. “The IOC has adopted a more hands-on role. It is unprecedented for the IOC, but there is no plan B. We are going to Rio.”
Brazil has also come under fire from football’s world governing body, FIFA, for long delays in construction of stadiums and other infrastructure and the overdue delivery of venues for the World Cup, which kicks off in June. Two years out from the 2016 Olympics, the situation on the construction front is just as bleak.
“We have become very concerned. They are not ready in many, many ways,” Coates said. “And this is against a city that’s got social issues that also have to be addressed; a country that’s also trying to deal with the FIFA World Cup coming up in a few months.”
It mentioned working “with our partners” in Rio on measures to “support the games,” including establishing joint task forces, a local construction manager and a high-level decision-making body “bringing together” the IOC, the government and all key partners of the project.
“Mr. Felli has received a very positive response on the ground in the past few days, and a number of recent developments show that things are moving in the right direction,” the IOC said. “Now is a time to look forward to work together and to deliver great games for Rio, Brazil and for the world, and not to engage in discussion of the past. We continue to believe that Rio is capable of providing outstanding games.”
Coates said dealing with three levels of government in Brazil made it harder for local organizers than it was for the heavily criticized organizers of the Athens Games, which were also plagued by construction delays and earned a “yellow light” warning from then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.
“I think this is a worse situation than Athens,” Coates said. “In Athens, we were dealing with one government and some city responsibilities. Here, there’s three.
“There is bureaucracy, there is little coordination between the federal, the state government and the city - which is responsible for a lot of the construction. The flow of funds from the federal government is not happening quickly enough. We think we need to help facilitate that.”