IOC sending dedicated official to Brazil to help tackle Olympic delays
Thomas Bach declined to issue so-called 'yellow card' to organizers
The International Olympic Committee is sending a senior troubleshooter to Brazil next week as part of a series of emergency measures to tackle the delays threatening the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
IOC President Thomas Bach said Thursday that Gilbert Felli, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, is being dispatched to Rio several months earlier than scheduled to begin dealing with the construction holdups and political paralysis that is putting some sports venues at risk.
The IOC is also sending several task forces to Rio, hiring a local project manager to oversee construction and urging Brazil to set up a special high-level decision-making body for the games.
"We believe that Rio can and will deliver excellent games if these appropriate actions are being taken now," Bach said at a news conference following a two-day meeting of the IOC executive board.
Bach, however, stopped short of ruling out the Olympics being taken away from Brazil if the delays persist.
Asked if he could categorically state that the games would take place in Rio, he said: "What I can say categorically say is we will do everything we can to make these games a success."
Relocating the games would be an absolute last resort and is considered highly improbable at such short notice, but the IOC seems determined to keep the pressure on Brazil to get things in order.
Bach declined to issue a yellow or red card warning to the Brazilians. Then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch handed a "yellow light" reprimand to Greek organizers of the 2004 Athens Olympics, a message delivered four years ahead of the games.
With the Rio Games only two years away, Olympic officials say the situation is more serious than it was in Athens because so much work has yet to even begin.
"This is not about giving cards," Bach said. "This is about ensuring the success of these games. We still believe these games can be very successful. If you want these games being successful, you have to take positive action. This is what we are doing now."
The IOC's main point man will be Felli, a Swiss administrator who has been deeply involved in operations, planning and management oversight of numerous Olympics.
Felli had been scheduled to begin working exclusively on Rio after he steps down from his IOC executive role in August. But Bach said the plans have been accelerated, with Felli holding a video conference with organizers on Monday and then travelling to Rio a few days later.
Felli will travel back and forth between Switzerland and Brazil before starting full-time in September.
"We are not going there to point a finger at whoever to see about the past," Felli said. "We think all the potential is there. We are going there to be part of a team to deliver the games."
On Wednesday, 18 summer Olympic sports federations took the floor in an unprecedented public airing of their concerns over games' preparations. Some sports asked about "Plan B" contingencies for their venues. The greatest worries surround the Deodoro complex, which is to host venues for eight sports. Work has yet to start on the site.
Bach said the IOC took the federations' concerns into account in adopting the urgent steps to get preparations on track, including the formation of task forces dealing with construction, operations and engagement with the public.
In addition, a local project manner will be hired to monitor the construction work on a daily basis, and the IOC's co-ordination commission and project review group will travel to Brazil on a more regular basis.
The Rio organizing committee said it agreed with the measures and looked forward to working more closely with the IOC. Bach said Mayor Eduardo Paes also welcomed the decisions.
Bach insisted the IOC was not "taking over" the organizing responsibilities from the Brazilians.
"This is not a measure being imposed by the IOC, a one-sided measure," he said. "We are facilitating in many respects. We are assisting by trying to lead by example. This is the better way than just putting pressure."
The announcement came as striking construction workers stayed off the job at the Olympic Park Thursday.
A statement from Rio Mais, a consortium building venues at Olympic Park, said workers remained on strike. The work stoppage began April 3 and affects at least 2,000 workers.
A regional labour court ordered the strikers back to work on Wednesday.