- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro have made “a lot of progress” in the last six months but the schedule “remains tight,” the head of the IOC’s inspection team said Wednesday.

Nawal El Moutawakel, who ended a three-day visit to Rio, was upbeat in nearly all her comments. This contrasts sharply with the situation about six months ago when one IOC member described the preparations as the “worst” in recent history.

Nawal said the main concern was hotel rooms and the pace of building venues. She said 68 hotels were under construction in Rio.

“Accommodation was always going to be a challenge with the large number of hotels that have to be built,” Nawal said.

Nawal said 44 test events must be held before the games, with venue construction on a tight schedule at the main Olympic Park and the second cluster in Deodoro in northern Rio. Ground was only broken a few months ago at Deodoro.

“I think Rio and Brazil will experience a full transformation of the city,” she said. “The games (will) have an impact on the population and on the entire country. The Olympic Games is something that is going to bring plenty of positive aspects.”

Christophe Dubi, who has taken over from Gilbert Felli as the new IOC executive director of the Olympic Games, was clear about the task ahead for organizers.

“We’re inside the two years and we are facing an amount of work that has to be delivered on a day-to-day basis,” Dubi said. “There is no express deep concern that keeps us awake at night. However, at the same time we are in that critical phase and a lot will have to be done.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is in a re-election battle, visited the Olympic Park in suburban Barra da Tijuca on Tuesday as part of a campaign stop. The first round of voting is Sunday with Rousseff expected to reach the decisive second round on Oct. 26 against challenger Marina Silva.

Spending on the Olympics is expected to reach $20 billion, a mix of public and private money.

Brazil, which has just entered into what most economists define as a recession, also spent about $11 billion to host this year’s World Cup.

IOC member Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio organizing committee, declined to answer several questions about the Olympic golf course under construction.

The city and the developer are being sued over alleged violations of environmental rules in building the course, which is centered in a nature reserve just a few miles (kilometers) from the Olympic Park.

The golf course is being built alongside 160 high-end apartments that are selling for between $2.5 and $7 million. A penthouse is even more expensive.

“This is a question for the city,” he said repeatedly.

No representative from the city was available to answer questions about the litigation, which may halt construction at the course. A judge is expected to rule in the next few weeks if the developer must alter the course design and hand back a parcel of land to the nature reserve.

Golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years.


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

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