BERLIN (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic preparations are in full swing with organizers having rediscovered their dynamism after years of delays and the soccer World Cup boosting their confidence, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Tuesday.
Branded as the ‘worst preparations ever by’ International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates in April, work for the Rio Games was now much more coordinated, said Bach, adding his colleague has since revised his statements.
“Rio has made great progress in the last couple of months,” Bach told Reuters in an interview a day before his one-year anniversary since taking over the IOC top job.
“You have seen the mayor and governor taking more responsibility and showing great dynamism and working closely with the organizing committee.”
Bach, a German lawyer and former Olympic champion fencer, took over from Jacques Rogge on Sept. 10, 2013 and was immediately thrown into the deep end, trying to speed up preparations for the first summer Games under his watch.
Rio organizers and government officials had until recently been criticized for failing to coordinate work and responsibility efficiently, leading to years of delays in almost every major project for the Games, including the Deodoro park which will host several sports.
The June/July soccer World Cup, which many feared could be faced with transportation, infrastructure and security issues due partly to similar delays in construction and organization as the Olympics, was a successful event with no major problems and was hailed as one of the best ever World Cup.
“The Brazilians are having greater confidence after the successful organization of the soccer World Cup. So there are many positive indicators,” Bach said.
“I am sure that now the IOC coordination commission which will go there soon will note further progress. The facilities in Deodoro are getting off the ground and the Olympic village is making great progress.”
In his whirlwind one year in charge which has seen him travel for much of the time, Bach has also launched what he calls Agenda 2020, an effort to overhaul the Olympics, including the bidding system and making the Games more flexible in their structure and program.
Among the changes he hopes will be adopted in an IOC session in Monaco in December is making it easier to include and exclude sports from the Games to make them more attractive to spectators, broadcasters and sponsors.
Currently a sport needs to be voted in seven years before making its Olympic appearance.
Tokyo, which will host the 2020 Games, is expected to be the first Games to benefit from these changes with the likely re-introduction of baseball and softball, hugely popular sports in Japan, in their program.
“What we could see in the last executive board meeting (in July) there was good support for the ideas brought forward by the working groups and the Olympic summit,” said Bach.
“I hope that there will be taken some measures with regard to bidding procedure, that we may get more flexibility of the composition of the Olympic program,” he said.
“I also hope very much the idea of the Olympic TV channel will be approved,” he said of his plans to set up the channel that would promote Olympic sports in the years between the Games and help connect with younger people.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly