Rio Summer Olympics Face Deep Cuts

The Associated Press

Organizers of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro need to cut $500 million from the budget of $1.85 billion due to Brazil’s recession.

“I’ve been around since Los Angeles in 1984 and we haven’t been in such a situation where a country that is staging the games is in such a vulnerable situation,” explained Matt Smith, World Rowing executive director.

Brazil received the games in 2009, when the country experienced a boom in their economy. But since then, the economy drowns in a downward spiral as the “currency has plunged almost 50% against the dollar, and inflation is over 10% and rising.” President Dilma Rousseff also faces impeachment due to a bribery scandal at Petrobras.

“We haven’t had to face anything like this,” he continued. “It was a bold move to go to an emerging country. The IOC [International Olympic Committee] deciding to go to South America was a really important, strategic issue – but with all the associated risks.”

Another major cut included no televisions in the athletes’ rooms. At first, the organizers decided to cut air conditioning in their rooms, but quickly pulled back when faced with backlash.

They slashed “several thousand seats” at the swimming venue. Construction workers will not build the “4,000 temporary grandstand seats at the rowing Olympic venue.” Sailing’s world governing body learned a year ago they will not receive their bleachers. Organizers released many unpaid volunteers while changing transportation needs.

Panasonic stepped in to provide funds for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Despite the cuts, Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi claims that “Rio will be magic” because of the city’s “natural beauty.”

“We are looking into each and every budget item,” he said. “I think this is setting a new benchmark. The result is heading in the right direction. They (organizers) have found efficiencies, and I wouldn’t call it cuts.”

The city suspended construction of the tennis center on Friday. Officials fined “the consortium responsible for delays and breach of contract for the mostly finished venue.” They did not explain how the center will be finished, which is 90% completed.

However, the consortium plans to take the officials to court.

The Olympic organizers also pushed back a test even in track cycling because the building is behind schedule. The athletes will test the track from April 29 – May 1 instead of March 18 – 20. UCI, the sport’s governing body, expressed concern for the athletes since they might have scheduled their year around the original test dates.

“Our priority has to be the riders whose training and preparation schedules have for a long time been set around the Rio Games, relevant test events and the wider global cycling calendar,” said officials. “It is crucial that all parties work together to ensure the very best conditions for the athletes both ahead of and during the games and guarantee that they compete in world class settings.”

The Associated Press listed these other problems:

Ticket sales are lagging. Only about half of the 4.5m domestic tickets have been sold. Rio organizers say Brazilians do everything at the last minute.

Guanabara Bay and the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon – venues for sailing, rowing and canoeing – show astronomically high virus levels, documented in an ongoing study by AP. Organizers can’t fix the contamination and are implementing only stop-gap measures, which will leave the health of more than 1,000 athletes at risk.

Researchers have found evidence of the dengue-like Zika virus in Brazil and have linked it to a surge of birth defects in the country. Zika is most prevalent in Brazil’s northeast but has spread south to Rio. The mosquito-borne diseases are worst in the southern hemisphere’s summer months of December, January and February and less troublesome in the drier winter month of August when the Olympics will be held.

The summer games begin on August 5 and end on August 21.


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