Bach defends Rio Games amid environmental protest

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Bach speaks during the IOC Executive Board meeting in Rio de Janeiro
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks during the IOC Executive Board meeting in Rio de Janeiro February 28, 2015. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (Reuters)

By Andrew Downie RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Olympic chief Thomas Bach defended Rio de Janeiro’s venues and legacy projects on Saturday after protesters gathered outside his hotel to loudly criticize the environmental impact of the 2016 Summer Games. A few dozen protesters chanted "IOC go home!" and held up banners calling International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Bach a "nature killer". At least two women invaded the hotel overlooking Copacabana beach. "You want to see robbers, they're here, the IOC," shouted one woman who fought her way past burly security guards. The women did not get out of the hotel lobby and were a long way from Bach, who was hosting executive meetings on the second floor. Bach faced the protesters after giving a press conference wrapping up an almost week-long visit to the Brazilian city and, although he offered to talk to the protesters, he was shouted down. They were complaining about water use in building a new golf course and what they said were trees cut down near the venue for sailing events. Rio is one of several Brazilian cities suffering from water shortages and protesters dubbing themselves 'Occupy Golf' have gathered outside the course in recent weeks. "They are destroying 300 trees when we are in the middle of this crisis and the people are blamed for the shortages when it is not the people who are using water," said Marina Abreu, one of the protesters. Bach, however, said legacy projects would leave Rio a much better city once the games were over. "The irrigation of the golf course does not affect the drinking water resources of Rio de Janeiro," he said, adding that water was not being taken from drinking water reserves. He also said the land on which the course was built was being "given back to nature" and that the course was being constructed using private money. When the Olympics are over it will become Rio's first public golf course. Rio will become the first South American city to host the Games in August 2016. (Editing by Tony Jimenez/Nick Mulvenney)