Lausanne – International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said Wednesday he was confident Brazil’s World Cup humiliation would not sour the mood ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, and that the city would be ready.
“I don’t think so,” Bach told reporters when asked if Brazilians would turn against the Olympics in the wake of a failed World Cup campaign which saw the Selecao suffer an historic 7-1 thrashing by Germany in the semi-finals.
Bach said he knew how nations rebound, recalling his homeland Germany’s last-gasp 2-0 loss to Italy in the 2006 World Cup semi-finals on home turf.
“The Brazilians are very optimistic people and they know that after each defeat there is a new victory waiting for you. I’m sure they will grasp this opportunity,” he added.
Bach spoke after a three-day session of the IOC’s executive board, which included a review of Rio’s preparations, at the Olympic body’s headquarters in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
Like Brazil’s preparations for the World Cup – widely criticised for being last-minute– its Olympic plans have repeatedly been in the spotlight.
The cost of hosting such mega-events and building the necessary infrastructure has become a sharply political issue in Brazil, sparking massive street protests in the run-up to the World Cup.
In April, IOC vice-president John Coates described Rio’s preparations as “the worst that I’ve experienced” in 40 years of being involved with the Olympics.
The Australian later back-tracked after discussions with IOC troubleshooters who rushed to Brazil to help tackle the construction delays and soaring costs.
On Wednesday Bach said Brazil had shown its mettle as World Cup organisers and would do so again in 2016.
“We are very confident, and the World Cup is encouraging. We are very confident that we will have a great games in Rio de Janeiro and that the sports-loving Brazilians, with all their enthusiasm, will be wonderful hosts,” he said.
“We are very happy that many of the concerns which were mentioned before this World Cup did not turn into reality,” he added.
The IOC executive board was briefed behind closed doors by Rio 2016 organisers.
“We can really see that there is a great dynamism in their preparations, in particular the city of Rio de Janeiro, the mayor and the governor, have taken action on the government side and are making progress with regard to different venues,” said Bach.
“It was altogether an encouraging report, also at the same time indicating that we have to stay vigilant and there is still no time to lose. But you really feel the determination and the enthusiasm of the organising committee,” he added.
Bach said he was due to fly to Rio later on Wednesday for talks with the 2016 organising committee on site, and would also meet Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.
Rousseff, facing an election in 2015, had mostly enjoyed a reprieve from protests over the combined $25 billion being spent to host the World Cup and Olympics. But she has once again become a target after the semi-final loss.
Preparations are an issue before any international sporting showcase, with the tone more or less alarmist – the readiness of the Russian resort of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics caused frayed nerves.
“It’s like this before every Olympic Games. The issues now are the venues, first of all, that we keep this dynamism, that the venues are getting ready in time,” said Bach, underlining that the first test events were due this year.
Former Olympic fencing champion Bach, elected IOC president lin 2013, has launched an “Olympic Agenda 2020” reform drive.
Apart from reviewing the sporting side, it aims to tackle concerns about spiralling costs, which have discouraged several would-be hosts from pursuing Olympic bids.
It will be on the table at a special IOC session in December.
“The Olympic Agenda 2020 is about changing some major issues in the Olympic movement. This ranges from the bidding procedure, the composition of the programme, to more sustainability to the Games,” said Bach.
“If this is getting approved, it will not fail to have an effect on future organisers and potential bidders,” he said. – Sapa-AFP