RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro can be “proud” of the four Olympic test events held so far in the city, the head of the Rio 2016 coordinating committee said on Wednesday, as officials once again played down concerns over athletes’ safety in the city’s polluted waterways.
“I was at the equestrian event and I was very proud and happy about how it was organized,” Nawal el Moutawakel, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2016 Olympics, told reporters.
“We have already seen excellent volleyball, triathlon, rowing and equestrian events, with more exciting sport to come over the next few weeks. This demonstrates the organizers’ capabilities and their capacity to deliver outstanding Olympic Games next year.”
Responding to independent reports of dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria in the waters where sailing, swimming, rowing and triathlon events will be held, IOC officials reiterated that safety for athletes was a priority.
The ocean and lagoon waters where the events will take place will meet World Health Organisation standards, said Christophe Dubi, the executive director of Olympic Games for the IOC.
The comments came at the penultimate coordination meeting ahead of next year’s games, the first to be held in South America.
However, some questions still remain over Rio’s preparations, with El Moutawakel acknowledging that next Sunday’s road cycling test event had been altered because of political unrest.
The start time was brought forward and the starting point was moved to avoid clashing with planned protests against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Brazil’s economy has stalled and Rousseff’s approval rating is the lowest ever for a Brazilian leader. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets across the country on Sunday to call for her impeachment.
“The Games have a strong appeal for Brazilians,” El Moutawakel said, adding she was not worried that political unrest will affect the games themselves.
“In the middle of this political and economic crisis the events are going to continue although routes can change as with the cycling.”
Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ian Chadband