Minister pledges 'greatest' Games

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazil's sports minister Ricardo Leyser said Rio de Janeiro is on track to host the greatest-ever Olympic Games, despite concerns about slow ticket sales and an ongoing political and economic crisis.

Leyser vowed Rio would offer a "harmonious climate" that guaranteed a memorable experience for fans and athletes.

"Brazilians have endured many crises and we have always worked together to overcome our problems, guaranteeing that the country resumes its path toward economic growth and income distribution," he said.

"This will be no exception. The crisis will be overcome and the Olympics will take place in a harmonious climate with many records falling. Brazil will be well placed in the medals tally - in both the Olympics and Paralympics."

The impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff, coupled with the country's worst recession in decades, have led to fears of apathy among Brazilians towards the Olympics.

  • 98%

  • Rio Olympics venues which are complete - with only the velodrome behind schedule.

With 99 days to go before the opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium, about half of the 7.5 million Olympic tickets remain unsold. But Leyser said interest from fans would improve as the Games drew nearer.

"There is still time for people to get excited about the Games," he said. "The Olympics are a unique opportunity for people to see great sporting idols and have direct contact with sports.

"Brazil is starting to stand out in sports that are barely recognised by the (Brazilian) public. Rugby, badminton, handball, table tennis and hockey are good examples. The Paralympic Games also generate a lot of excitement for many people.

"I guarantee that the opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games will be a unique experience. I am certain that with the start of the torch relay on May 3 and its subsequent journey through 300 Brazilian cities, the Olympics will attract even more media attention and ticket sales."

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee's coordination commission said it was satisfied with the progress of works.

According to organisers, event venues are 98 per cent complete overall, with only the velodrome behind schedule.

"The International Olympic Committee officials who were in Brazil two weeks ago were satisfied with all of the facilities and the progress of works in this final stage of preparations," Leyser said.

"The dozens of test events that have been held since July last year have been very important to identify necessary adjustments. Brazil will host the greatest-ever Olympics," he added.

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Minister pledges 'greatest' Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe