- Associated Press - Monday, January 13, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - The army general appointed three months ago to coordinate planning for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics compares his new job to “changing a tire on a car that’s moving.”

Major General Fernando Azevedo e Silva, named by President Dilma Rousseff to head the Olympic Public Authority, acknowledged in an interview published Monday in Folha de S.Paulo newspaper Monday that deadlines are “very short” to prepare South America’s first Olympics.

Silva’s word will catch the attention of new International Olympic President Thomas Bach, who is to meet in Brazil next week with Rousseff, Rio organizers and local government officials.

With less than three years to go, preparations for the Rio Games remain dogged by construction delays, financial uncertainties, environmental worries and possible public protests.

“We have one thing we can’t change, the date of the opening of the Olympics: Aug. 5, 2016,” Silva said. “Time will dictate the work.”

Silva’s predecessor resigned from the position complaining he’d been marginalized.

Some fear the Rio Olympics will face even more organizational problem than this year’s World Cup, which FIFA President Sepp Blatter said last week was the “farthest behind” in his four decades of experience.

Silva said the two should not be compared, but said the Olympics were more complex.

“There is a big different between the World Cup and the Olympics,” he said. “In the Olympics alone - not counting the Paralympics - there are 41 world championships held at the same time. The World Cup is one sport, soccer … We have technical requirements from each federation, each discipline.”

Bach has said that Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s executive director for the Olympic Games, will be deployed to help Brazilian organizers. Bach said Felli’s “top priority” after the Sochi’s Winter Games would be working with the Rio organizing committee. He will remain in that role after he retires from the IOC at the end of August.

The visit to Brazil by IOC president Bach overlaps with that of FIFA’s top World Cup official Jerome Valcke, who is coming to inspect progress on preparing World Cup stadiums. Several are not expected to be ready until April, just weeks before the World Cup opens June 12 in Sao Paulo.

Brazil was awarded the World Cup in 2007 and the Olympics in 2009. Brazil’s public has grown critical of the billions being spent on both mega events. The Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up 6 ½ month ago, was hit with daily protests with police expecting the same during the World Cup.


Follow Stephen Wade at https://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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