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World

Olympics Look to IOC for Help with $40 Million Debt

The Rio Olympics were battered by organizational problems and variable attendance

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

RIO DE JANEIRO – Almost a year after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Brazilian organizers are asking for help from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to satisfy creditors who are still owed about 130 million reals ($40 million).

Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the Rio organizing committee, said Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman would meet officials next week at IOC offices in Switzerland.

“The IOC might help us gain leverage, might help us in this dialogue with the government,” Andrada said.

However, the IOC was cautious in a statement on Wednesday to a news agency. Contractually, host cities and countries are obligated to pay Olympic debts.

“The IOC continues to be ready to offer its help and expertise,” the statement said. “However, to do this we would need reliable and understandable information from those in charge, something which regrettably at the present time we do not have. Once we can be provided with a clear picture then we can work out how best we can offer our support going forward.”

The Rio Olympics were battered by organizational problems and variable attendance, while the country faced a series of corruption scandals and the worst recession in decades.

Some infrastructure built for the Olympics has found uses — a subway line, a renovated port, and high-speed bus lines. But sporting venues are mostly vacant, a $20 million Olympic golf course is struggling to find players, and fewer than 10 percent of the apartments in the 3,600-unit Athletes Village are reported to have found buyers.

Last month, a news agency analysis, supported by city, state and federal data, put the cost of the Olympics at $13.1 billion, a mix of public and private money. However, the exact figure is likely larger and may never be known.

Andrada, the Rio spokesman, said organizers were moving cautiously to get help from authorities in Brazil in paying the committee’s debt. He said negotiations had reached “a crucial point.”

Any such move to avoid possible bankruptcy is sure to meet resistance from the state of Rio de Janeiro, which is late paying teachers, police, pensions, and other public services.

This all comes as Brazilian President Michel Temer has been charged with corruption by Brazil’s top prosecutor and has a popularity rating of only 7 percent.

“We need to connect dots that are very far apart in a very complicated political environment,” Andrada said. “The IOC is more guiding us rather than being the silver bullet.”

STEPHEN WADE

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