Countdown to Rio 2016: Preparations on track, but political problems remain

An aerial view shows Rio Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 25, 2016.  © Ricardo Moraes
With just 100 days to go before the start of South America's first-ever Olympic Games, the people of Brazil could be forgiven if their minds are currently elsewhere.

Preparations for the event have been hit by a series of problems which have threatened to derail the Games.

The litany of issues includes the impeachment vote against Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, a massive corruption scandal, the Zika health crisis and water pollution problems in Guanabara Bay, where the Olympic sailing events will take place.

READ MORE: Brazil’s Rousseff likens impeachment to ‘coup,’ vows to fight back

The country's economy has been seriously impacted by a collapse in commodities prices, while concerns over exploitation of workers tasked with building the venues refuse to go away.

With an ombudsman reporting on Monday that 11 workers have died so far working on Olympic projects, and the news that at least two people were killed when a new cycle path collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean last week, the build-up to the Games has been anything but smooth.

Despite these problems, the majority of venues and infrastructure will be completed in time, with just the velodrome and a subway line extension causing major headaches at the moment.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) visited Rio this month and said it was happy with the progress so far, although it noted “thousands” of small issues were still to be rectified.

Sports Minister Ricardo Leyser is hoping the Games will spark a resurgence in Brazil's economic fortunes.

"I think the Games are one of the few good things that will happen this year," he said.

"It can reanimate the country and generate jobs. In this hard moment, the Games help us to reactivate the economy and bring in tourists."

While Leyser remains positive Rio 2016 will be a success, not everyone shares his view.

Leading Brazilian academic Professor Sérgio Praça says the Games are of no benefit to the country's population.

"I don't think there is any mood for the Olympics in Brazil, and much less so in Rio de Janeiro," he said.

"For the politicians, the Olympics can be great. But for the population in general, these mega-events like the [football] World Cup and the Olympics are bad.

"It moves people from their homes, triggers a lot of public investments that aren't necessary. We have empty stadiums that aren't being used from the World Cup.

"These aren't events for the Brazilian population – the price is too high."

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Organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada admits the preparations for the Games have been difficult, but he remains confident Rio 2016 will be a success.

"I am not glossing - you saw the cycle path, but I am confident," said Andrada.

"We are now in the most difficult time, the last 100 meters. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

"But as soon as we get the torch going and the athletes in Rio, then the energy changes."

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