Sports

Brazil audit shows Rio Games preparations off target

An audit into the finances of the 2016 Rio Olympics shows preparations are behind schedule with earmarked state cash largely unspent, Brazilian press reported yesterday.

The Brazilian sports ministry has set aside a budget of 1.6 billion reais (RM2.3 billion) towards the staging of South America's first Olympics and the Paralympics thereafter.

But an audit by the Brasilia-based national auditing office, TCU, has shown that only five per cent of that funding has been spent.

The report also accused the Public Olympic Authority, a public consortium set up to oversee delivery of the Games, of poor coordination.

The Rio Games Organising Committee responded to the news by stating: "The Tribunal de Contas da UniĆ£o (TCU) has offered us an important opportunity for dialogue.

"The disclosure of the Organising Committee's budget is our main priority in terms of disclosure of information.

"The Rio 2016 Organising Committee is working towards staging the Games under the constant scrutiny of the International Olympic Committee, our partners in the three levels of government (municipal, state and federal) and public opinion," added the Committee, highlighting the "transformational process" of the whole project.

Yet the mammoth task of staging the Games and the World Cup, which itself will cost an estimated US$16 billion (RM51.5 billion), is a topic of public angst in Brazil, where thousands publicly protested in June and July to demand the money be better spent on creaking public services.

The TCU audit was unveiled a month after an International Olympic Committee coordination commission visited Rio to oversee progress on the sites ahead of the Games, for which organisers have earmarked an operating budget of around US$4 billion.

But the capital budget is around three times as much and already there are fears millions of public money may be needed to shore up the cost of the extravaganza.

The Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported during the commission's visit it had obtained documents showing barely half of the Games' projects were on track amid construction delays and a dire shortage of hotel capacity.

Brazil is already racing to overhaul its creaking airport infrastructure with the World Cup just nine months away.

The Estado de Sao Paulo said the IOC judged infrastructure projects to be in the red category - that is, clearly behind schedule.

The TCU documents highlighted a lack of firm dates to begin as yet unstarted building work, citing an "absence of solid plans."

And the TCU report concludes that, while it could not describe proceedings as being "paralysed", nonetheless "it is reasonable to infer that the current flow of budgetary resources risks (leading to) potential delays" in preparations.

A further reported concern of the audit office is just what use the Olympic sites will be put to when the Games are over.

The fear of host cities being left with "white elephant" facilities has been a regular theme in recent decades.

Many of the facilities used for the Summer Games in Greece now lie idle while the cost of the Montreal Olympic Stadium from 1976 took taxpayers decades to pay off - aided by a special tobacco tax - after the bills soared beyond initial estimates. - AFP, September 27, 2013.