By Jack Whibley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) inspectors completed their fifth trip to Rio on Monday, September 2nd to review Olympic preparations and, at a press conference wrapping up the trip, gave organizers cautious approval of the way things are going.
“A lot of work has been done, but a large amount still remains across the entire project and some timelines remain very, very tight,” said Nawal El Moutawakel, the head of the IOC Coordination Commission.
The IOC spent two days in what El Moutawakel described as “intense meetings” with city officials and members of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. She continued, “All the Committee is leaving Rio happy with the work that has been done and confident about the future of this Olympic Games.”
Clearly much work lies ahead in the three years until the Games arrive in Rio and the IOC stressed that Rio 2016 must focus on the construction of venues, particularly in the Deodoro Zone, and associated infrastructure across the city.
Referring to the construction works of the new Metro subway line linking Zona Sul (South Zone) with Barra da Tijuca, Gilbert Felli the Executive Director of the Olympic Games at the IOC said, “We are concerned but [the works] are going very fast. Because the works are due to finish close to the Games, we will remain concerned until close to delivery of the Games.” Felli continued, “There will need to be a contingency plan if suddenly the Metro is not ready.”
At the press conference, the IOC was keen to stress the lasting legacy that hosting South America’s first Olympics will bring to Rio. “We have been impressed by the commitment of the Rio 2016 team to ensure that legacy is at the heart of everything they do and whether it is developing transport infrastructure, building an education program, or leaving a sporting heritage to the city, Rio 2016 is making sure that nothing is left to chance”, said El Moutawakel.
The president of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, Carlos Nuzman, gave further details of the legacy the Games will bring. He said, “The most important legacy is bringing the Olympics to Brazil. Bus Rapid Transit lines and the Metro extension are the most important traffic legacy.”
The Olympic Experimental School in Santa Teresa, named after former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, was also praised by Nuzman who said, “it will change lives and turn some students into elite athletes.”
The IOC’s visit will be seen as a modest success by Rio 2016 organizers as many had feared more severe criticism from the inspectors following a series of problems for the Games’ organizers over the past month. The head of Brazil’s Olympic Public Authority resigned in mid-August amid rumors of a political fall out regarding the organization of the Games.
More recently, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suspended accreditation for Rio’s anti-doping laboratory. The laboratory was the only WADA-accredited facility in Brazil and it now needs to reapply for accreditation.
In response to the suspension, Rio 2016 said, “We are fully aware of the developments with regard to [the laboratory]. Anti-doping testing is an important element of the Rio 2016 Games and we will work closely with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and [the laboratory] to help them to take the necessary measures to successfully reapply for WADA accreditation in advance of 2016.”
The IOC inspectors will return to Rio in March 2014 for their sixth visit.