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World Cup success eases Rio Olympics fears

AFP
The torch relay for the 2016 Rio Olympics will visit 250 towns and be carried by 10,000 runners before it arrives for the opening ceremony at the Maracana on August 5, organisers say
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Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - The World Cup's success will help ease concerns over Rio de Janeiro's preparations for the 2016 Olympics, the city's mayor said Friday, promising that everything will be ready on time.

Two months after a top International Olympic Committee official said the preparations were the worst he had seen, Mayor Eduardo Paes insisted that venues would be ready for use, including the highly polluted Guanabara Bay.

Delays building stadiums and social protests caused concerns about Brazil's buildup to the World Cup, but the tournament has taken place without any major incidents.

"I think all the criticism that we faced before the World Cup helped a lot to smooth concerns about the Olympic Games," Paes said ahead of Sunday's Argentina-Germany final in Rio's Maracana Stadium.

"This mistrust that we had two months ago, we don't face anymore," he said in English to a group of foreign journalists.

"I'm not saying that we have an easy task ahead of us. It's not easy to do the Olympics. We still have lots of work ahead of us, but we are confident that we will deliver things on time," Paes said.

In April, IOC vice-president John Coates said the organization had to take unprecedented action by sending experts to Rio to speed up preparations, warning that it was "the worst I have experienced" in his 40-year experience.

However, he later backtracked on his comments.

Beyond construction issues, the city is scrambling to clean sewage-contaminated water in Guanabara Bay, which will host sailing and windsurfing events.

Paes said 55 percent of the venues were ready or being adapted, including the Olympic stadium and the Maracana, which will host the opening ceremony.

"The message that we want to keep working hard on is that we are not going to build crazy stadiums, white elephants that by the end of the day people will not use," he said.

As for the bay, he said, "things are being accelerated" to clean it up but the area that will be used for the Games "is not bad."

"It's going to be clean, there's no risk for the athletes," he said, noting that people will be able to see for themselves during a test event in August. "There are some problems far away from the Olympic space."

Another venue that has been running late, the Deodoro park that will host equestrian competitions and field hockey, is 60 percent ready, he said.

"You will have to see, but it will be Olympics of the Olympics," he said. "I'm very optimistic."

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