SBD/February 24, 2014/Olympics

Rio Now On The Clock For '16 Games, And Concerns Exist Whether City Will Be Ready

With the Sochi Games concluding last night, the Olympic spotlight is "now turning from Eastern Europe to South America" and the '16 Rio Games, according to NBC's Natalie Morales. NBC's Bill Neely reports shifting from Sochi to Rio "could hardly be more different than this." Rio is the first South American city ever to be awarded the Games, and officials have "two years to get ready, but they've got problems, too." While the Opening Ceremony stadium is "ready, most venues are not," and the main Olympic park "is a building site." Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said of the unfinished sites, "These are scheduled. That's what we've got to prove that we can deliver things on schedule." Neely said IOC officials have noted Rio does not have a "day to waste." Paes said, "I can guarantee that these Games will be ready on time." But Neely notes that Rio "has a dark side." Since the city won the Games, its police have "struggled against the drug gangs that rule many neighborhoods." They patrol "aggressively, trying to make Rio safe for the Summer Games, but parts of this city remain violent." Neely: "Rio's reputation is built on samba, Carnival and fun. It knows how to throw a party. The countdown has now begun to one of its biggest" ("Today," NBC, 2/24).

PRIMED FOR PYEONGCHANG: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman reports ahead of the '18 Pyeongchang Games, there were around 200 South Korean observers in Sochi, "taking notes on everything from security to transportation to the design of the venues." Like Sochi, Pyeongchang "is a massive project that includes a new high-speed rail line and expressway, construction of six venues and a plethora of housing." Pyeongchang also "has yet to begin selling major sponsorships." POCOG Secretary General Moon Donghoo said that the effort on that "will start later this year" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/24). In Salt Lake City, Kurt Kragthorpe writes, "Korea will have much to live up to following Sochi's Games" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/24).

NOT TOO SOON TO THINK ABOUT TOKYO: Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said that he traveled to the Sochi Games to assure the IOC he was "fully committed to Olympic preparations after his predecessor resigned over a financial scandal." The city is hosting the '20 Games, and Masuzoe said, "There are so many challenges but my highest priority is the possibility of a disaster. The worst thing that one can think of is a disaster right in the middle of the Games. So, for me, disaster prevention and disaster mitigation plans are very important." REUTERS’ Karolos Grohmann notes with the "fallout of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami still affecting his country, Masuzoe said work had started on an Olympics protection plan.” Masuzoe: "We have already begun so as to have the perfect disaster prevention and mitigation plan” (REUTERS, 2/24).

WHAT BECOMES OF SOCHI?
CBS' Mark Phillips asked with the Sochi Games over, "what happens to all this stuff now?" The facilities built for the Games will either be a "whole new herd of Olympic white elephants or you're looking a look at the future." Russian officials said that they "have a plan." Fisht Olympic Stadium, which was "only used for the Opening and Closing ceremonies here, is supposed to house a soccer team." However, there is "no team yet and no fan base either." Bolshoy Ice Arena, which held the hockey competition, is "supposed to house a hockey team, but there isn't one of them yet, either." Phillips: "The ski area, where only wilderness existed before, is a beautiful place, but it took a massive snowmaking and snow storage investment to provide even the marginal conditions that made these Games possible. Will people come in the future?" SOCOG President & CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko said Russia "needs to develop the first ski resort in our country, and this narrow strip on the seashore in the biggest country in the world really deserves to be redeveloped since Soviet times" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 2/24).
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