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By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The resignation of sports minister, George Hilton, was announced in a statement by Brazil’s presidency late on Wednesday evening (March 30th). Ricardo Leyser, a senior official in the ministry, was named as his successor on an interim basis.

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Sports Minister, Resignation, Dilma Rousseff, George Hilton
George Hilton, Brazil’s sports minister, has stepped down less than six months before the country will host the Olympics, photo by André Corrêa/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Rumors of Hilton’s resignation surfaced last week amid political maneuvering in the government. On March 23rd he switched from the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) to the Pros (Republican Party of Social Order) in a bid to keep his position when the PRB split from the ruling coalition.

Hilton’s appointment to the position at the beginning of 2015 was criticized due to his apparent lack of sporting experience. He acknowledged it in his acceptance speech, saying, “I may not profoundly understand sport, but I understand people, I know how to listen.”

President Dilma Rousseff thanked Hilton for his hard work and dedication in her statement. His successor, Leyser, 45, has worked in the sports ministry since it was created in 2003. He has been heavily involved with the organization and financing of the Olympic Games, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro in August.

In recent weeks the forthcoming Games have been overshadowed by the political crisis which is rocking the presidency. The International Olympic Committee said it was watching developments in Brazil closely, announcing in a statement: “The Brazilian people will deliver a memorable Olympic Games full of their passion for sport for which they are world renowned. We are very confident that Brazil will offer to the world excellent Olympic Games of which the whole country can be proud.”

The 2016 Olympic Games, the first to be held in South America, are due to begin on August 5th.

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