IOC insists Rio organisers working on water safety

RIO DE JANEIRO • Rio de Janeiro will stage a great Olympics, as long as it sorts out "millions" of details first, the head of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) fact-finding mission said on Wednesday.

The IOC delegate even promised to dive into the filthy bay where the sailing events will take place.

"Brazil is showing the entire world that it can deliver a great Olympic Games," Nawal El Moutawakel, head of the IOC's Coordination Commission, told a media conference in Rio.

She said that volleyball, triathlon, rowing and riding test events have passed her evaluation with no "major problems".

Dozens more competitions designed to check the city's infrastructure are still to come, with sailing test events starting tomorrow on the scenic but heavily polluted Guanabara Bay.

El Moutawakel dismissed concerns over the Olympic rowing, windsurfing and sailing venues, saying that organisers are "doing their utmost" to ensure the water is safe.

"We will dive (in) together," she joked with the media. "I propose we all dive. All of you."

Christophe Dubi, the IOC executive director for the Olympics, said while promises by Rio authorities to cut 80 per cent of Guanabara Bay's pollution have been abandoned, at least the competition areas will be clean.

At least half of greater Rio's sewage pours untreated into Guanabara Bay, as well as garbage carried in by dozens of rivers that environmentalists have described as effectively dead.

IOC officials also addressed worries that impoverished Brazilians will be left behind by the global mega-event, which comes just as their country is sliding into recession. "The Olympic Games enjoy strong support from Brazilians in the middle of economic and political crisis," El Moutawakel said. "We are aware what the country is going through."

Rio authorities say that a new metro line, a cross-city bus link, a revitalised port area and clusters of new sporting venues will be a huge boost to the dilapidated but lively city.

However, critics warn of delays in the metro line, officially due to open only two months before the Games, and say that the biggest beneficiaries of the Olympics will be the private investors behind infrastructure such as the Olympic Village, which will turn into a luxury residential area.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2015, with the headline 'IOC insists Rio organisers working on water safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe