Rio Olympics to ride out political turmoil: minister

AFP , Wednesday 27 Apr 2016

The Rio Olympics, which kick off in 100 days, will not suffer fallout from the political crisis raging in Brazil, but pollution and terrorism remain worries, Sports Minister Ricardo Leyser told AFP

Planning for South America's first Games has been underway since Rio was awarded the hosting rights in 2009.

Although stadiums and other infrastructure are said by officials to be 98 percent ready, the country has been thrown into turmoil by a battle to impeach President Dilma Rousseff -- who claims she is victim of a coup. She may be suspended from office as early as mid-May.

In an interview with AFP, Leyser painted an upbeat picture of the Olympics, which open in Rio's Maracana stadium on August 5.

But the minister conceded that the bay hosting sailing events remains shockingly polluted and said that no city can be totally prepared to prevent terrorist attacks.

Q: Will Rousseff be there to declare the Games open?

A: It's difficult to look into the future. If I had those powers I'd prefer to look into the lottery numbers.

Q: What about the impact on preparations when the government is paralyzed?

A: From the point of view of preparing the Games, the crisis has no effect at all. The main expenses have been met and now we are starting to deal with thousands of smaller issues.

Our planning and execution plan was truly very good.... We don't need to take a single strategic decision now, so no, there is no significant impact and that puts me at ease.

Q: What's left to do?

A: We need (operational) integration of the stadiums. There's the security operation, transport, a very complex TV operation -- all this is happening at the same time and what we need to do now is coordinate every detail.

Q: The Bay of Guanabara where the sailing and windsurfing events will take place remains terribly polluted. Can you say that's ready?

A: This was a great, but lost opportunity (to clean the bay). The Rio state government failed to meet its goal. We're at about 50 percent on treatment (of raw sewage entering the bay) and we'd hoped for 80 percent. But a lot of work was done to raise it from 10 percent and that means it's still a significant result.

Q: Is Brazil ready to take on the threat of terrorist attacks?

A: Paris wasn't ready, Brussels wasn't ready. However much you prepare, there's still a big risk because the logic of terrorism today is far more cruel and far more complicated than it was a decade ago. However, Rio de Janeiro is the only city of the world that can say it has prepared by hosting six (recent) major events.

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