RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s interim president and the head of the International Olympic Committee reiterated Tuesday their confidence Rio de Janeiro will manage to host a successful games in fewer than two months’ time, despite the litany of problems besetting the country.
Speaking to journalists during a chaotic visit to the Olympic Park that saw the two men tour the facilities separately, interim President Michel Temer and IOC president Thomas Bach shrugged off questions about Brazil’s ability to play host to the mega sporting event amid the worst recession in decades, an outbreak of the Zika virus and the ongoing political crisis that saw former Vice
President Temer temporarily replace President Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached and suspended.
The visit was Temer’s first to the Olympic Park, in Rio’s western Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, since assuming the presidency, and it is expected to be Bach’s final visit ahead of the Aug. 5-21 games, which have also seen lackluster ticket sales and worries about whether the readiness of a promised — and crucial — metro extension as well as the velodrome. The two men toured the grounds separately, with Temer flanked by Rio’s telegenic mayor, Eduardo Paes, who’s widely seen as a rising star in Temer’s Democratic Movement, or PMDB, party, and both groups beset by
hordes of journalists.
The 75-year-old leader pledged that the financial crisis that has hit Rio state’s coffers particularly hard wouldn’t affect the games, adding that the national government would step in with additional funding, if needed.
“We will all collaborate, not just with words, but in meeting the financial needs,” he said, adding, “We will do that with the absolute conviction that we are creating something extraordinary for Brazil and for the world.”
Asked how much money the national government will contribute to the games, Temer said, “I don’t have those numbers yet but by the beginning of next week we’ll have those numbers.”
Temer also brushed off questions about whether the political crisis — which could potentially see the final vote over Rousseff’s fate take place during games time — could pose any problem for the games, saying, “The people of the world won’t be worried about this.”
Asked whether he would want Rousseff to be on hand for the opening ceremony, Temer responded, “It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t have any objection.”
Bach, the IOC president who has repeatedly voiced his confidence in Brazil despite the maelstrom of problems, repeated his position.
“After this meeting with President Temer today, I am even more confident it will be a great Olympic games,” he said.
Later, at a meeting with students at the headquarters of Rio’s Olympic games, Bach acknowledged Brazil was in the throes of problems on multiple fronts.
“From the outside, we see deep divisions in this country, whether it’s political, social, financial, it’s all about divisions and controversy,” Bach said, adding that he saw the potential for the Olympics to heal those wounds. “Brazil needs now something which is unifying the country.”
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