IOC head Bach salutes Rio Games efforts

BRASïLIA (AFP) - International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said on Tuesday he was satisfied with progress being made by organisers of the 2016 Rio Olympics, pronouncing himself confident the event would be a success.

Brazil is determined to ensure South America's first ever Olympiad goes smoothly.

But, as with its organisation of the World Cup this June, the giant nation has work on its hands to ensure it can carry out the major infrastructural overhaul that both events require.

Although IOC officials have dropped clear hints in the past they would like to see Rio make faster progress, Mr ach gave an upbeat assessment after talks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

"We are very confident," said Mr Bach.

"We have seen great progress in the last couple of months. The organising committee has worked extremely well," said Bach, on his first visit to the 2016 hosts since succeeding Jacques Rogge as head of the IOC last September.

However, he added that Mr Rousseff was aware of the size of the challenge and had indicated that "we don't have any day to lose" in massively upgrading urban and athletic facilities.

A continent-sized nation of 200 million, Brazil has been labouring to show the world it can overhaul itself in time for its first World Cup since 1950 and thereafter stage a memorable Olympic Games which the country hopes can transform Rio the way the 1992 tournament did Barcelona.

Earlier this month Sepp Blatter, head of world football ruling body Fifa, indicated the country had started its World Cup preparations too late after being awarded the event in 2007.

With just five months to go to kick-off, Brazil is racing against the clock but in the context of Rio 2016 has a little more breathing space, prompting Mr Bach to take a positive view.

"After this meeting I can tell you my confidence in Brazil is even greater.

I am impressed by the president's commitment to these Games and the leadership she is showing," said Mr Bach, who will meet local organising commitee members in Rio on Wednesday ahead of the imminent announcement of a Games operating budget.

In its original bid, Rio organisers estimated at US$2.8 billion (S$3.6 billion) the cost of staging the Games but there is expected to be a sizeable overrun on that - as has often been the case with previous tournaments, amid forcasts of nearer US$4 billion operational budget.

Many Brazilians have expressed indignation in recent months at the multibillion cost of staging both the Games and the World Cup - the combined cost is set to be around US$25 billion. Last June more than a million took to the streets to demand money be redirected to sectors such as health and education.

Insisting the budget would be "reasonable", Mr Bach told reporters in Brasilia: "The organising committee is working very hard to respect the budget limitations and to make it really reasonable."

Mr Bach concluded by saying the Games would have a positive effect on Brazilian society as new infrastructures would create work in Rio and beyond.

"I'm sure that after these Olympic Games the people of Rio and the people of Brazil will say - like for instance the people of Barcelona or the people of Munich - there is a Rio de Janeiro before the Olympic Games, and there is an even better city, if in Rio de Janeiro's case that is possible - after the Olympic Games."

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