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IOC President Tours Rio Venues, Confident Olympics Will Be Great


Host city Rio de Janeiro has been dealing with a lot of problems in their run-up to the Olympic Games, now fast approaching - Zika, corruption scandals, their president's impeachment trial. Still, the head of the International Olympic Committee is a booster. After touring the venues in Rio yesterday, he pronounced himself confident that the Olympic Games will be great. To get more on the preparations, we're joined by NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Rio. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: All right. Lulu, August 5, the games begin. Will Brazil really be able to pull it off?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I think that very much depends, Renee, on who you ask. You know, the IOC president, Thomas Bach, as you mentioned, is expressing confidence. And that's very important. But this is a country and a city that, I think, is facing a lot of challenges. Let's start with the economic crisis. That's affected security in Rio de Janeiro in the run-up to the games. Let me throw some numbers at you. Thirty percent of the state's security budget has been cut here. And that's led to a crime surge, with robberies up 30 percent, murders up 15 percent.

The political crisis, which you mentioned, continues. And it now looks like, Dilma Rousseff, the former president's, impeachment trial will continue through at least part of the games. They did not want that to happen. And that is now raising concerns about protests during the games. You know, I sat down with Rio de Janeiro's mayor, Eduardo Paes, last week. And this is what he told me his prediction was.

EDUARDO PAES: In spite of the situation in Brazil - in spite of all the problems, the political turmoil and the economic turmoil that the country's facing - I mean, I think - it did not affect the beauty of the Olympic Games. So - it's pretty much everything on time has been delivered, tested. So, I mean, I'm pretty optimistic that things will go - is going to find.

MONTAGNE: Well, one could expect Rio's mayor to predict success, I suppose. But what about the venues? Are they really ready?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Renee, most of them are. There have been a few significant delays. First is the velodrome where the cycling races are taking place. The swimming complex is also delayed. There were a lot of complaints about - during the test events there. There's also the tennis complex, which also needs a new surface on the hard courts. And of course, we still have the issue with the water quality where the sailing will take place.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, OK, lots of bad. But how about the residents of Rio? How are they feeling?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, you know, there is a lot of anxiety. Things are pretty bad here economically and politically. But if you look at the torch, this is something that's really been pretty amazing. It's traveling all around the country. And everywhere it's gone, people have been coming out in force. There's been so much joy around the torch traveling. It's in the Amazon region right now. And I think that may signal that when the games actually arrive, when the opening ceremony happens, people's mood here may shift.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talking to us from Rio. Thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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