IOC makes visit to Rio after warning organizers

TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer Published:

SAO PAULO (AP) -- International Olympic Committee inspectors are making their first visit to Rio de Janeiro since telling 2016 organizers that preparations need to be speeded.

The IOC's coordination commission began its fourth visit to Rio on Monday to meet with local organizers and monitor the progress made at venues and infrastructure sites for the first Olympics in South America.

The IOC said in December that "time is ticking" and organizers must attack the project "with all vigor."

The visit comes amid leadership changes and uncertainty about the budget and location of some sports venues. It also comes less than a week after a surprising decision by the IOC executive board to drop wrestling from the list of 25 sports guaranteed a berth in the 2020 Games, and just days after the arrest of double-amputee Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius on murder charges.

It is the first time the IOC panel visits Brazil since it became public that the ousted presidents of the local badminton and ice sports federation asked the IOC to probe court interference and accused the Brazilian Olympic Committee of not complying with the Olympic Charter.

With three years to go until the Olympics, there's been concern with the pace of progress in Rio's preparations. The Rio committee has a newly appointed CEO and just made changes in the position of chief financial officer, and there's still no official budget.

The city also hasn't overcome uncertainty over the venues for rugby, field hockey and golf. Rio announced last year the rugby venue won't be built where it was originally planned, while a location for the field hockey arena was still being negotiated with the sport's international federation and the land where the golf course will be constructed remains the source of a legal dispute.

Rio committee president Carlos Nuzman recently downplayed the notion of delays or any major problems related to the city's preparations. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said in December that "there is time, but time is ticking, and they (organizers) need to carry on attacking this one with all vigor."

The IOC was in Rio in November for the official debriefing of the 2012 Games, when London organizers shared their knowledge of hosting the Olympics.

The commission's three-day trip will focus on Rio's preparations, though, and it will be led by commission president Nawal El Moutawakel and IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli. Nearly 20 people are part of the commission, which is aimed at giving support to local organizers and monitoring the overall development of the games' project.

Since the commission's last visit in June, the 2016 Rio committee said it "has made progress in important areas of the project," including the Olympic Park, the sports venues at the Deodoro Park, the renovation of the port area and hotel infrastructure.

Although IOC delegations have been to Rio many times in the past months, it will be the commission's first visit since the end of the London Games.

"The commission will hear updates on issues as varied as athletes, venues, sport, transport, media services, workforce, technology and the Paralympic Games, to name but a few of the subjects to be discussed this week," the IOC said in a statement.

The commission will make two annual official visits to Rio until the games begin in August 2016.

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