IOC Moves to Take Charge of 2016 Rio Olympic Preparations

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The International Olympic Committee executive board meeting in Turkey. © 2014 IOC/Mine Kasapoglu
The International Olympic Committee executive board meeting in Turkey. © 2014 IOC/Mine Kasapoglu

April 10, 2014

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The International Olympic Committee moved swiftly Thursday to take charge of Olympic venue construction and operations in Rio de Janeiro in the wake of serious concerns voiced by the majority of international sports federations–including equestrian–that the Games are behind schedule with just two years to go.

The IOC will hire its own local construction project manager and create a “high level decision-making body bringing together the IOC, government and all key partners in the project.” It will also immediately step up assessment visits by its own executive director as well as implement more direct involvement by the sports federations responsible for operating the actual Olympic events.

“We are leading by example, as facilitators and partners,” IOC President Thomas Bach of Germany told a news coference in Turkey following two days of meetings of 28 international federations responsible for the Olympic sports with the IOC’s executive board.

He deflected efforts to describe the moves as a takeover and did not say whether a so-called “Plan B” to strip Rio of the Games at this late stage had been discussed. But the emphasis on the IOC taking the lead in trying to cut through a quagmire of different levels of government and political factions left no doubt who will be in charge.

And he did not think the soccer World Cup being hosted this year by Brazil, a nation that is passionate about the sport, would be a distraction in preparing for the Olympics.

The legacy being created for Rio by construction of sports venues and infrastructure, Thomas said, were the best answers to fears that there could be a repeat of riots against building costly sports facilities at the expense of social programs.

“There is a strong commitment by the IOC to the success of these Games,” he said. “This commitment is expressed by these measures.

“We believe that Rio can and will deliver excellent Games if appropriate actions are taken.”

He said, “The measures approved today are intended to support the local organizers by putting at their disposal the experience of previous organizers of the Olympic Games and those with expertise on how different levels of government can work together in seamless cooperation. We are leading by example, as facilitators and partners.”

Asked whether the IOC was essentially issuing a yellow or red penalty card as applied in sports and a metaphor used by the IOC four years before the 2004 Athens Games to chastise organizers because construction was behind schedule, he said:

“We still believe these Games can be successful. We are undertaking all the measures. If you want these Games to be successful you have to take positive action and that’s what we’re doing now.”

As to who was to blame for the faiiures so far, he said: “We have to look into the future, not starting the blame game from the past. We need all our energy for these Games to be successful. After the closing ceremony we can come back to this question and speak of responsibility.”