Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Rio rushing to ready for 2016 Games

ENVIRONMENTAL WOES:Authorities said that the city will likely struggle to meet its goal of treating most of the raw sewage floating in a bay to be used for yachting

AFP, RIO DE JANEIRO

With yesterday marking 500 days to go before Rio stages South America’s first ever Olympic Games, the city is straining at the leash to be ready.

In having to overhaul crumbling infrastructure, polluted waters and protests notably over the choice of a nature reserve to host the return of golf to the Games, organizers could almost be forgiven for seeing the undertaking as one mammoth discipline — a giant obstacle course.

In April last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president John Coates slammed preparations as the “worst ever” and warned that “the situation is critical on the ground” following several inspection visits.

Organizers responded by creating a taskforce to monitor progress and IOC president Thomas Bach insisted he was “very satisfied” following last month’s three-day meeting of the IOC’s executive committee in Rio.

However, while Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes prepared to mark the 500 days to go milestone by attending drilling of part of the country’s largest urban road tunnel, concerns remain over the Games’ environmental impact.

Green campaigners and athletes alike have slammed yachting site Guanabara Bay, a picturesque but smelly dumping ground for refuse, amid an ongoing struggle to clean up waters which biologists say also risk contamination from superbacteria in adjoining rivers which are resistant to antibiotics.

State authorities admit Rio is to struggle to meet an initial pledge to treat 80 percent of the raw sewage which floats into the bay.

The siting of the Olympic golf course in an ecological reserve has also enraged activists, furious at the potential effect on wildlife.

“Cleaning up the bay is an important legacy objective,” organizers told reporters in stressing the infrastructural and environmental legacy is “the primary focus” 17 months out from the Aug. 5 next year opening.

A total of 7.5 million tickets are scheduled to go on sale on the official Web site www.rio2016.com starting on Tuesday next week, with prices ranging from 40 to 1,200 Brazilian real (US$12.76 to US$382.91).

Those who have registered online over the past month are to be able to buy. About two-thirds of tickets are expected to be distributed in July and August lotteries.

A full program of test events involving 7,800 athletes was unveiled last week and Tuesday next week should see the outline competition schedule.

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