By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has visited Rio this week in order to assess the progress of the preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games that at one time had been described as the “worst” in Olympic history. However, this time the IOC was full of praise for Rio, even though some problems persist.
According to the reports by the IOC, the committee was encouraged by the progress Rio had made since the last visit. The city hosting the first South American Olympic Games was described as making “solid progress” and preparations have been announced to be “on track.”
“We were impressed by the progress being made on the venues,” Nawal El Moutawakel, President of the IOC’s Coordination Commission, told the press.
“A lot of great progress has been made,” John Coates, the IOC’s Vice President, added. “That’s quite clear. I’m a lot more relaxed.”
The IOC remained positive despite the fact that thousands of dead fish have appeared in the Guanabara Bay on Tuesday, February 24th. Rio had already been under criticism for acknowledging that the polluted waters of the bay will not be cleaned in time for the Olympic sailing events.
The reason for the fish deaths remains unclear, but could be related to the current drought in Brazil’s Southeast according to officials. An investigation has been launched and results are expected next week.
Rio Governor Luis Fernando Pezão has admitted that it will be difficult to meet the cleaning targets of the Guanabara Bay. “It’s not easy,” he said. “Every time we have a negotiation, the bidding process [for the project] slows and postpones things.”
Also, another intense period in the preparations for the 2016 Summer Games is yet to come, as officials in the IOC cautioned. More than twenty test events are set for this year and 44 are to take place in 2016 before the start of the Games.
“The Rio team is now entering the most intense phase in the preparation for the Games, as they reach a new level of detail while planning numerous test events,” Moutawakel explained.
“The golf course, velodrome and equestrian cross-country venues all have very aggressive timelines that will need to be met over the coming months.”
In other news, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has asked major companies to close in Rio during the Olympics in August 2016 to ease traffic.
“I should call a meeting by March with judicial officials and big companies such as Petrobras, the BNDES and other big employers in Rio so we can have a holiday period during the Olympics,” Paes explained on Tuesday, February 24th.
“I don’t want people to leave the city, we want them to stay, but it is clear that mobility will be affected during the Olympics.”
Furthermore, Organizing Committee Head Carlos Nuzman dismissed reports stating that Rio is considering having two Olympic Flames, one in the Maracanã stadium for the opening and closing ceremony, and one in the Engenhão, where the athletics competition will take place. Nuzman said there “had been no discussion” of having two flames.