Bach to travel to Brazil, check on 2016 Rio Games
LONDON -- Warning that Brazil has "no time to lose," new International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach will travel soon to Rio de Janeiro to check on the troubled preparations for the 2016 Games.
Bach said Wednesday he will go to Brazil in "the next couple of months" to encourage the organizers and government to work together to make sure the first Olympics in South America are successful.
"The purpose is to ensure seamless cooperation between all stakeholders and to tell the Brazilian authorities the IOC is fully committed to the success of these games," Bach said in a conference call with reporters. "I want to make this statement in person to demonstrate that the new president is behind these Olympic Games."
With less than three years to go, preparations for the Rio Games remain dogged by construction delays, financial uncertainties, environmental worries and possible public protests.
The Olympics face many of the same concerns afflicting next year's World Cup in Brazil. Last week, two construction workers were killed in a crane collapse at one of the World Cup stadiums in Sao Paulo. At least three World Cup stadiums will not be finished by the end of December, the deadline FIFA had requested.
The stadium accident came as a group of IOC experts, including executive director Gilbert Felli and Rio coordination commission chair Nawal El Moutawakel, were in Brazil for a review of the Olympic preparations.
"They have reported that there is good progress being made, that the organizing committee is working well, and that on the other hand there is no time to lose," Bach said. "It needs all the efforts of all the stakeholders, not only the organizing committee but also the different levels of government. The IOC is ready to ensure this seamless cooperation between all the stakeholders."
On a separate Rio issue, Bach downplayed the controversy about the name of the Joao Havelange Stadium, which will host the track and field events during the Olympics. Bach suggested the venue will be known during the games only as the Olympic Stadium, in keeping with Olympic tradition.
Havelange resigned as an IOC member in 2011 to avoid sanctions stemming from a World Cup kickback scandal in the 1990s. Havelange quit as honorary FIFA president this year shortly before the release of an ethics report that found he accepted bribes in the same case, involving forming marketing company ISL.
Critics say Havelange's name should not remain on the main Olympic stadium.
"We are still a couple of years away from the Olympic Games, and in the Olympic Games, stadia are Olympic stadia, so this for the time being is not a matter of major concern for us," Bach said.
No date has been set for Bach's visit to Brazil, but it could come in January before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which run from Feb. 7-23.
On another issue, Bach said the IOC is going ahead with plans to use the Russian anti-doping lab to test samples at the Sochi Games.
The World Anti-Doping Agency had threatened the Moscow lab with a six-month suspension if it failed to improve operations by last Sunday. Moscow is setting up a "satellite" lab in Sochi for the games.
"The Russian authorities and national anti-doping agency have all have told us these conditions will be met," Bach said. "From our point of view we can, with this approval of WADA, go ahead with the Moscow lab with regards to Sochi."
Meanwhile, the IOC is continuing to retest frozen doping samples from the 2006 Turin Games. With the results expected to be finalized soon, Bach said the IOC will quickly act if any positives are found. Athletes can be disqualified and have medals retroactively stripped.
The Rio trip continues Bach's whirlwind schedule since his election as president in September, succeeding Jacques Rogge. The German has been to the United Nations and various countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. He has met with several heads of state and government, including Russia President Vladimir Putin in Sochi and Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Bach will chair his first IOC executive board meeting on Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland. Immediately after that, he will convene a special "brainstorming session" of the board over several days to discuss a wide range of issues facing the Olympic movement -- a project he calls "Olympic Agenda 2020."
Bach said the issues discussed at the board retreat will be put forward to the full IOC assembly in Sochi. Commissions and working groups will make recommendations to be approved by the end of the year.
Among the key issues for debate will be bidding process for host cities, which Bach has said he hopes to change. One possibility is the reinstatement of member visits to bid cities, which have been prohibited since the Salt Lake City corruption scandal.
Any changes should be in place for the bidding race for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Rome, Paris and cities from the United States and Africa are potential contenders.
"I would like to have Olympic Agenda 2020 in place by the end of next year," Bach said. "This would mean that it would fully apply to the `24 bidding procedures."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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