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World

Rio Olympic Planning Assailed for 'White Elephant' Venues

Río de Janeiro spend about $12 billion to organize the games, which were plagued by cost-cutting

In this July 4, 2016 file photo, the Olympic Park of the 2016 Olympics is seen from the air, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, photo: AP/Felipe Dana, File
4 months ago

RIO DE JANEIRO – A federal prosecutor looking into last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics says that many of the venues “are white elephants” that were built with “no planning.”

The scathing report offered Monday at a public hearing confirms what a news agency reported several months after the games ended. Many of the venues are empty, boarded up, and have no tenants or income with the maintenance costs dumped on the federal government.

“There was no planning,” federal prosecutor Leandro Mitidieri told the public hearing on the Olympics. “There was no planning when they put out the bid to host the Games. No planning.

“They are white elephants today,” Mitidieri added. “What we are trying to look at here is to how to turn this into something usable.”

In this Feb. 4, 2017 file photo, children play near the Olympic Park sign in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: AP/Silvia Izquierdo, File

Rio de Janeiro spend about $12 billion to organize the games, which were plagued by cost-cutting, poor attendance, and reports of bribes and corruption linked to the building of some Olympic-related facilities.

The Olympic Park in suburban Barra da Tijuca, which was the largest cluster of venues, is an expanse of empty arenas with clutter still remaining from the games. The second largest cluster, in the northern area of Deodoro, is closed despite plans to open it as a public park with swimming facilities for the mostly poor who live in the area.

Patricia Amorim, the undersecretary for sports in the city of Rio, said highly publicized plans were on hold to dismantle one arena and turn the remains into four schools. The arena was the venue for handball.

“It will be dismantled,” she said. “We are just waiting to know whether we will actually have resources to build these schools on other sites, or whether we will dismantle it and wait for the resources to come. Our schools need to be reformed and that’s our priority, not new schools.”

Nine months after the Rio Olympics ended, the local organizing committee still owes creditors about $30 million, and 137 medals awarded during the games are rusting and need to be repaired.

Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, the moving force with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) behind organizing last year’s Olympics, is being investigated for allegedly accepting at least 15 million reals ($5 million) in payments to facilitate construction projects tied to the games.

He denies any wrongdoing.

In a statement to the news agency, the IOC said “Rio had a strong legacy plan in place,” and it urged there be no “hasty judgment.”

“What we know is that Rio is a better place after the Olympic Games,” the IOC said.

It said London was slow using its venues after the 2012 Olympics, and blamed Brazil’s economic problems for the abandoned venues.

This Feb. 4, 2017 file photo shows translucent tapestries created by Brazilian artist Adriana Varejao, falling from the exterior of Olympic Aquatic stadium inside Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: AP/Silvia Izquierdo, File

“It is difficult for a country to implement these legacy plans as a first priority when the basic needs of the population need to be urgently addressed,” the IOC said.

Organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada said more than 100 medals awarded at the Olympics showed signs of rusting. He said many were bronze medals, and said many of the tarnished medals had been awarded to U.S. athletes.

“Most of the problems were due to handling, poor handling,” Andrada said. “Either they fell on the floor or they were touching each other so, it was a problem of handling. Whatever was the problem with the poor handling, it took the gloss off the medal and then you see rusting.”

He said the medals would be repaired at Brazil’s mint, called the Casa da Moeda.

He said more than 2,000 medals were awarded at the Olympics and said “several other games had problems with medals.”

STEPHEN WADE
FILIPE de ALMEIDA

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