Rio confronts 2016 Olympic challenges

Rio de Janeiro, Aug 5 (IANS) The Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro faces a slew of challenges that have been put under the global spotlight just a year away from the 2016 Olympic Games that the city is scheduled to host from August 5-21.

Among them are polluted water, logistics bottlenecks, security concerns, the threat of protests and unfinished infrastructure.

The issue that has most attracted the world’s attention is the cleanup work at Guanabara Bay, which will host Olympic sailing, and the Rodrigo de Freitas lake, home to rowing and canoeing.

Media reports have claimed that both venues remain littered with rubbish and sewage, prompting concerns from health experts about possible risks to athletes.

But officials are adamant the venues will be suitable for competition, despite conceding that a 2009 pledge to treat 80 percent of waste flowing into the bay will not be met.

Unlike London 2012, when power supply contracts were signed more than a year and a half before the Games, details about who will provide electricity to venues in Rio have yet to be finalised.

Similarly, tenders for the construction of temporary venue structures for events like mountain biking and beach volleyball have not been completed.

Organisers have said they will tackle the city’s high crime rate by staging Brazil’s largest ever security operation.

Some 85,000 troops will be deployed, including 57,000 military personnel, officials said last week.

Unlike the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup last year, there has been little public opposition to the Olympics.

Officials point to the private sector’s commitment to back more than 50% of the Games budget as a major reason for widespread support from locals.

The government will hope that a corruption scandal involving Brazil’s largest public company, Petrobras, and a deepening economic crisis will not fuel a new wave of unrest in the next year.

According to Rio 2016 deputy CEO Leonardo Gryner, the biggest infrastructure challenge facing the city is the Ipanema-Barra Tijuca subway extension.

Gryner said construction work had passed its last major hurdle, but labourers are still working around the clock to finish the 16 kilometre project on time.

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