Rio says it can't relax despite World Cup success

Updated: August 7, 2014, 2:11 PM ET
Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The success of the World Cup in Brazil doesn't mean that organizers of the 2016 Olympics can afford to relax, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said Thursday.

Paes said the football tournament eased some of the concerns of both the International Olympic Committee and the media about the preparations, but said the city will keep working at full speed to make sure the games are delivered successfully.

Although there is still a lot of work to be done, both in infrastructure projects and venues, the mayor said "we are on budget and on time" to have everything ready.

"We are very proud of the World Cup we delivered, but we are not relaxing because we delivered a great World Cup," Paes said in a speech to international journalists at the Maracana Stadium. "Obviously it helped us send a message to those who were concerned about our capability of delivering these big events, but we are perfectly aware of the differences."

Paes said that although the Olympics take place mostly in a single city instead of the 12 used in the World Cup, Rio will have several additional challenges.

He noted that while about 700 players from 32 countries came for the World Cup, there will be nearly 15,000 athletes from more than 100 nations at the Olympics. The number of volunteers will also be significantly higher, and having all fans in the city at the same time will create mobility difficulties.

"We know we are talking about something completely different," Paes said. "I know there will be a lot of pressure in the next few years, but we are looking a little bit better because we delivered the World Cup."

There were chronic delays in infrastructure projects and stadium construction before the World Cup, raising serious doubts about whether the country would be ready. Although not all the work was completed, the event went on as planned without any significant problems for teams or fans.

"I'm convinced the games will be every bit as magical as the World Cup," said Larry Probst, chair of the IOC press commission.

Paes said Olympic organizers have addressed most of the problems that prompted some sports federations to publicly criticize the city's preparations a few months ago. Many of the issues were related to the Deodoro cluster of venues, where construction began only recently.

"There were some problems, but now it's all completely in our hands," Paes said.

With two years to go, Rio organizers say 55 percent of all the venues are "ready or being adapted."

That list includes venues such as the Olympic Stadium, which is undergoing major renovation because of a faulty roof.

"They (IOC) are happy with what we are showing," said Carlos Nuzman, head of the local organizing committee.

Paes said he hopes the 2016 Games will be marked by the legacy it will leave to Rio, and said the city has done a good job in saving public money and using mostly private funds to create this legacy.

"We don't have the British punctuality, but I think we are doing pretty good here," Paes said of his city's preparations.

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Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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