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Government, Rio 2016 officials offer assurances

Tuesday - 4/8/2014, 10:50pm  ET

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Top officials of the 2016 Rio Olympics and the chief of staff for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met for two hours Tuesday and repeated assurances that, despite well-publicized delays, test events and the games themselves will meet proposed deadlines.

The meeting, which was described as "crucial" three weeks ago by inspectors from the International Olympic Committee, was postponed several times. IOC officials said it focused on funding and venue planning.

Officials at the meeting, including Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, Rousseff's chief of ctaff Aloizio Mercadante and Carlos Nuzman, president of the organizing committee, left without speaking to reporters and gave no details about budgets or planning.

"The Brazilian government reiterates that deadlines will be met," the sports ministry said in a brief statement. "All the guarantees exist for works to be handed over in time for test events, and the games themselves will take place without disorder."

The Rio Games -- like Brazil's World Cup in two months -- have been plagued by delays, rising costs and concerns about the lack of coordination among Brazil's three levels of government.

Brazil faced strong criticism on Tuesday from the head of Olympic summer sports federations, who said "we are at risk at sports venues" in Rio. He said a "Plan B" had to be considered.

"It's getting very serious," said Francesco Ricci Bitti, speaking in Belek, Turkey.

Ricci Bitti heads the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations. He also leads the International Tennis Federation and serves on the IOC coordination commission for Rio, which made its latest visit to Brazil three weeks ago.

"The organizing committee is doing its best, but the government is not supporting enough," he added.

Tuesday also marked the second week of a strike by more than 2,000 workers at Rio's Olympic Park, the main cluster of venues for the games. Rio organizers acknowledged work will have to speed up when the strike ends.

Work at the second largest cluster of venues, called Deodoro, has yet to begin. There are also worries over a delayed golf course, and severe pollution in Guanabara Bay, the sailing venue.

The IOC has been prodding Rio for several years to speed up. Some of the delays center on which level of government pays for what.

Brazil is estimated to be spending about $15 billion in public and private money on the Olympics, and $11 billion more on the World Cup. Both could be an issue with Rousseff seeking re-election in October.


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