- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Laureus says its World Sports Awards will not be held in Rio de Janeiro this year, another setback for Brazil as it attempts to organize the World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

New plans would be revealed “shortly,” Laureus said without elaborating in a brief statement on Wednesday.

“Laureus and the state of Rio de Janeiro have agreed that the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards will not be staged in Rio,” the statement said.

In its own statement, the Rio state government’s Secretariat of Sports and Leisure acknowledged it would “settle outstanding payments” owed to Laureus. It did not cite a money figure and said the contract was ended under “friendly” conditions.

Brazilian media have reported the cancellation centers around a money dispute between organizers and Rio state. Reports say Laureus is owed millions under the terms of the contract.

The Laureus Awards, dubbed the Oscars of sports, were given to Rio for 2013 and 2014. Last March, Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis received the biggest individual prizes.

Laureus’ decision comes three months after the Soccerex conference, a trade show for football, was called off in a dispute with the Rio state government. The state government said that cancellation involved a law that would give tax breaks to the event organizers. The organizers said it was called off because of security concerns, a charge denied by the state government.

Brazil is facing countless problems organizing the World Cup. As many as three stadiums may not be ready until April, and travel and soaring hotel prices promise headaches. Protests are also expected when the tournament opens on June 12 in Sao Paulo, prompted partly by billions in government money being spent to organize both events.

FIFA Presdient Sepp Blatter said Brazil was farther behind than any World Cup in his four decades of experience.

The International Olympic Committee has openly told Rio organizers to speed up construction and planning, and IOC President Thomas Bach is to meet next week in Brasilia with President Dilma Rousseff.

Construction of the main Olympic venue has begun, but work on a large cluster of venues in the northern part of the city has not started. The games are also troubled by severe water pollution in venues that will host sailing, rowing, canoeing and distance swimming.


Stephen Wade on Twitter: https://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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