Rio's reputation on the line as organizers struggle for answers

Tue Aug 16, 2016 2:17pm EDT
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By Karolos Grohmann

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in imminent danger of cementing a reputation as the most trouble-plagued Games in recent history, organizers are struggling to convince the world of their good intentions as problems increase by the day.

Games chief spokesman Mario Andrada, an experienced journalist, has had the unenviable job of delivering bad news to a global media audience on a daily basis with organizers unable to make problems go away.

A fire at the mountain bike venue that damaged signage among other things on Monday was the latest issue to hit the Olympics, already grappling with poor attendances, a lack of cash, chaotic transportation, a worrying shortage of volunteers, crime and a widespread feeling of malaise sweeping across the Olympic parks.

The king of Olympic sports -- athletics -- has been the latest casualty with the stadium consistently showing empty seats, thousands on Monday evening alone.

"We understand it is a big stadium. We understand more seats should be filled," Andrada told reporters as his daily briefing was once more peppered with critical questions about organizers' ability to deliver on promises of full venues.

Andrada has had to answer the same question from day one but has failed to provide a convincing response. Media representatives have even compared him with his Beijing 2008 Olympics counterparts, notorious for their ability to dodge tough questions.

"There are several reasons according to our own research about how the stadiums, especially the track and field stadium, doesn't look as full as it should look," Andrada said.

"Long sessions, no-shows, tickets sold and people don't show up. In some venues, people... leave, especially to get food. This is a matter that has been discussed from day one here," he said.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Preliminary - Men's 200m Round 1 - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 16/08/2016. Empty seats     REUTERS/Dylan Martinez