Rio velodrome incomplete but gets nod from cyclists

RIO DE JANEIRO • The Olympic velodrome in Rio, the latest-running major venue for the August Games, was declared ready for action on Sunday - without actually being finished.

It is just 40 days until the first Olympics in South America gets under way and there had been growing fears about slow progress at the velodrome, where the cycling will take place.

"It's still missing some details, but the velodrome is in condition to be used. We have overcome one of the biggest challenges of the Olympics," said Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio.

Temporary stands have yet to be completed and colourful sheets were thrown over to cover some unfinished parts, said an AFP photographer at the inauguration, where cyclists whizzed around the track as part of the testing.

The cyclists seemed pleased with the state of the velodrome and Gael Suter, a member of Team Switzerland, said: "The venue is great.

"Not finished yet but it's working well and it's already in good condition to ride and I think some great times will be done at the Olympics."

Parts of the outside of the velodrome - which was supposed to have been ready late last year - also need more work before the Games launch on Aug 5.

Organisers say the rest of the Olympic infrastructure is virtually done.

Paes blames construction company Tecnosolo for the delay.

Tecnosolo, which in turn pointed the finger at the city hall, is facing a winding-up order and was replaced on the project by a sub-contractor.

Officials say that the next few weeks before the Games begin will be used to polish off the velodrome, where pre-Olympic test events in April and May had to be postponed because of the slow progress of the project.

Executive director of the International Olympic Committee, Christophe Dubi said: "What is amazing is the resilience of these people here.

"Because they've faced a lot of hardships and they've overcome them, one after another.

"The velodrome was a massive, massive last-minute effort.

"When you are inside 40 days and you can see around you there are still a lot of people working.

"This is where we are - the last minute.

"But what you see here in the back for me reflects what you will see happen in these Games.

"We have all of the athletes here and in the end, this is what we're all about. It's about the athletes."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Rio velodrome incomplete but gets nod from cyclists'. Print Edition | Subscribe