Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes insists there is enough money to avoid disruption at this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, despite facing another raft of criticisms for raising bus prices across the city.
Concerns were also raised last year when it was revealed that organisers planned to cut the budget by up to 30 per cent in some departments, although they later claimed that this would only be in carefully analysed, non-crucial areas.
It is expected that Brazil will stay in recession in 2016, with the World Bank forecasting a further 2.5 percent contraction in the next 12 months.
Paes insists this will not affect the Games.
“We have enough money to make sure everything is presented as it is supposed to be, as you can see here,” he claimed at the opening of the 16,000 capacity Arena 1 Carioca venue, which will host basketball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby during the two Games.
“We are not China, we are not England, we are not a rich country.
“Wherever we can cut the budget, we will.
“The playing fields will be perfect and the spectators’ experience will be perfect, but they will not see a stadium like the Bird’s Nest.”
The bus fare rise appeared small – from R$3.40 (£0.58/$0.84/€0.58) to R$3.80 reals (£0.64/$0.94/€0.68) – but, coming in the midst of Brazil’s worst recession in 25 years and following further hikes last year, it prompted fresh protests in the city centre.
The host nation is also suffering from a surfeit of other problems, including a major corruption scandal involving state-run oil firm, Petrobras.
This has caused plummeting support for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Many Brazilians believe the Games is an unnecessary and unaffordable extravagance at such a time, and there are fears that protests focusing on bus prices could spill over into general discontent against the Olympics.
This has not happened yet, with demonstrations in São Paulo – one of the cities due to host football matches during the Games – being more heightened than in Rio so far.
Police in São Paulo fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters again this week, reviving memories of similar clashes both there and in Rio during the Confederations Cup football tournament in 2013.
Two people were arrested with “explosive devices”, the military police revealed.
- By Nick Butler at the Dolce Munich Unterschleissheim; this article was republished with permission from the original publisher Inside the Games www.insidethegames.biz