IOC inspector: Rio de Janeiro 'ready to welcome the world'
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The head inspector for the IOC says she's confident the trouble-plagued Rio de Janeiro Olympics are "ready to welcome the world" with the games opening in just under four weeks.
"I cannot imagine more spectacular backdrops for the world's top sportsmen and women to showcase their talents to a watching world," Nawal El Moutawakel said in a statement from the International Olympic Committee on Monday.
Rio has been beset by a long list of problems: the Zika epidemic, rising violence and security risks, severe water pollution and slow ticket sales. In addition, the county is in its worst recession since the 1930s and the impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff is set to begin just days after the Olympics end.
El Moutawakel was in Rio over the weekend, taking her last look at Olympic venues. She called the venues "stunning" and pointed out that Rio has hosted 44 test events to prepare for South America's first Olympics.
She also said the delayed subway line extension, linking the Ipanema and Copacabana beach area to the western suburb or Barra da Tijuca, would be ready for the games. State officials have said the line will be running on Aug. 1, four days before the games open on Aug. 5.
She confirmed the $3 billion subway line extension will operate only for Olympic fans and officials — and not the general population. She said the "trains are now running the full length of the metro line, as it enters the final stages of testing."
El Moutawakel also assured that two delayed venues — the velodrome and the equestrian venue — will be ready.
She said Rio organizers were working "to minimize the risk to visitors" from the Zika epidemic and said the IOC was following the guidelines of the World Health Organization. The WHO has advised pregnant women not to travel to Zika areas.
On other fronts, from security to water pollution, El Moutawakel said organizers would provide "top-level conditions for the athletes."
Brazil will deploy 85,000 soldiers and police to secure the games, twice the number in London four years ago.
Violence has been spiking in Rio. A mutilated body washed up on Copacabana beach two weeks ago, and sailors from Spain and Australia have been robbed at gunpoint as they trained in the city.
Human Rights Watch said in a recent statement that police have killed 645 people in Rio so far this year. It says some were "most likely the result of the legitimate use of force, but many others were extrajudicial executions."