IOC says 2016 will benefit Rio 'greatly'
RIO DE JANEIRO -- IOC officials left Rio de Janeiro impressed by preparations for the 2016 Olympics, saying the city had made great strides on its infrastructure projects.
The glowing report, delivered by the IOC oversight panel Thursday after a three-day visit, included praise for public works such as a new rapid transit bus system and projects meant to benefit the city in the long run.
"There has been an impressive amount of work," said Nawal El Moutawakel, head of the International Olympic Committee's coordination commission. "It will benefit the city greatly."
Brazil's Olympic-related plans include doubling the capacity of the international airport, an overhaul of the port, and a new water treatment facility.
Gilbert Felli, the IOC's director general of the Olympic Games, said Rio's readiness so far made it a "front-runner" among cities that have hosted the Games.
Rio will be the first city in South Africa to host the Olympics.
Mayor Eduardo Paes said Rio had been "doing its homework" and staying on top of deadlines for important improvements. Hosting a successful Games also involves dealing with the violence that has long plagued the city's shantytowns.
Paes said increased police and state presence in slums has cut down on crime.
"I'm certain that Rio is ahead of other cities in developed countries that were more experienced in hosting events of this size," Paes said.
It was the IOC panel's second visit since the city was awarded the Games in October 2009.
"Rio 2016 has made great strides as an organization," the IOC said in a statement. "It has developed good plans, made an excellent start to its marketing program, and strong integration can be seen across its departments and with its stakeholders."
The IOC team visited several of the venues and infrastructure projects for the Games. The panel said it was a "fantastic step forward" that Rio had approved its venue for golf, which was voted onto the Olympic program two years ago for the 2016 Games.
Some residents used the IOC visit to protest that the needs of local citizens are being overlooked. An association of residents from various neighborhoods protesting a newly planned subway route delivered a letter Tuesday to the IOC members, saying changes would benefit the hotel industry rather than poorer residents.
Amnesty International and the United Nations have called attention to allegations of rights abuses during the eviction of shantytown residents who live along the planned transit routes.
Nearly 1,000 families have been moved to make way for the Transcarioca, an express highway that will link the far west of the city to the international airport to the north.
According to the city government, the project will require 3,000 homes to be demolished. Resettlement options for those families include homes in neighborhoods 40 or 50 miles away.
The IOC is following the issue closely, El Moutawakel said.
"I don't think the idea of having games here is to harm anyone," she said. "Everything will be done with a very human touch."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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