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IOC vice president: Rio Olympic preparations ‘worst’ ever

Apr 29, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

John Coates AP

Preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics are “the worst I have experienced,” International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates said Tuesday.

Coates, the president of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), has been an IOC member since 2001 and involved in the Summer Games for more than 30 years. He has visited Rio de Janeiro six times as part of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Games.

“They are not ready in many many ways,” Coates said, according to the AOC, at an Olympic forum in Sydney. “The city also has social issues that need to be addressed.”

Coates said there is no plan B and that the Games are going to Rio in two years.

He repeated concerns the IOC has voices about delayed preparations and said the situation is worse than that of Athens 2004. Four years before the Athens Olympics, then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch gave Games organizers a warning for being in a “yellow phase” with “many problems.” A green phase meant everything was proceeding smoothly, and a red phase meant the Games were in danger.

Coates said the IOC’s measure to embed officials in Rio’s Organizing Committee is “unprecedented.”

“The situation is critical on the ground,” Coates said. “We have to make it happen, and that is the IOC approach. You can’t walk away from this.”

Coates detailed publicized issues at the forum, such as construction not yet starting on some venues. The resignation of a top official, political and communication issues and a worker strike have recently set back the organization of the first Olympics in South America. Water quality is a major concern, he said.

Rio 2016 posted a statement on its website later Tuesday.

“Rio will host excellent Games that will be delivered absolutely within the agreed timelines and budgets,” it read.

The IOC, which has sent executive director Gilbert Felli to Rio, also issued a statement.

“Mr. Felli has received a very positive response on the ground in the past few days, and a number of recent developments show that things are moving in the right direction,” the IOC said. “Now is a time to look forward to work together and to deliver great games for Rio, Brazil and for the world, and not to engage in discussion of the past. We continue to believe that Rio is capable of providing outstanding games.”

Catching up with Laura Wilkinson

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