With next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games arriving in Rio de Janeiro, local officials are "scrambling to solve a chronic hotel bed shortage" so severe that during a UN conference there last year, the mayor had to "appeal to residents to open their apartments to visitors," according to Jenny Barchfield of the AP. The plan is to slash property taxes for love hotels, known as "motels" in Portuguese, that "agree to tone down the decor" and free up 90% of their rooms for the tens of thousands of visitors expected to flood the city. About a third of the city's 180 hotels rent rooms by the hour, mostly for "amorous rendezvous." Rio chapter of the ABIH hotel owners association VP Antonio Cerqueira said, "Motels have all the know-how to be able to put people from around the world up in style. What throws people is really just the decoration." With only 25,000 beds, or just half the estimated 50,000 needed for the Olympics, authorities "hope to add about another 6,000 beds through motel conversions." Cerqueira said that new hotels with another 14,500 beds "are also in the works." By comparison, London had about 110,000 hotel beds for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Motel operators are "still in talks with city officials over the finer points," but Cerqueira said that he expects the deal "to be inked by the end of the month" (AP, 1/18).
Claiming that the Indian Olympic Association "had done nothing wrong in the election process" President Abhay Singh Chautala said that the issue of the national body’s suspension by the IOC is "likely to be resolved in two months," according to the PTI. Chautala said, "IOA was not responsible even for 1% on the issue of suspension by IOC as it was following the High Court and the government’s sports code while conducting elections under the supervision of a three-member retired High Court judges." He added: "The issue is likely to be resolved within two months. IOA will soon get an appointment from IOC." Allaying "fears of Indian sports persons not being able to take part" in the Commonwealth, Asian Games or 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Chautala said that "the issue would be resolved soon and that even now there is no ban on players taking part in international events." He said, "We are bound by High Court directives and cannot ignore the government rules and court orders on the issue" (PTI, 1/20).
The British government spent nearly £1.2M ($1.9M) of taxpayers' money on tickets for last summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games, so "ministers and civil servants could watch for free," according to Lucy Crossley of the London DAILY MAIL. Coalition ministers "were given access to events" including athletics, beach volleyball, cycling, diving and boxing. In total, the government purchased 8,641 tickets for the London Games, at a cost of nearly £1.2M, with 60 seats going to coalition ministers. Former Treasury Minister James Sassoon "received the most expensive ticket among his colleagues" when he was handed a £725 ($1,150) seat at the athletics. Sassoon and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore were also given £1,500 ($2,380) tickets for the Closing Ceremony. Of the 8,641 tickets purchased, around 4,000 costing £916,000 ($1.5M) were "paid for and distributed by central Government." Of the remaining tickets, 2,381 were "bought by staff who had worked long-term on the Games or Ambassadors" (DAILY MAIL, 1/19). SKY reported the list "does not include free tickets" given to senior figures by LOCOG or visits paid for by companies and sponsors. Another £349,153 ($553,000) was spent on government-hosted receptions before the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Olympics and Paralympics (SKY, 1/19). The BBC reported a spokesperson from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that they "would not go into details about why one particular minister was given tickets to a particular event or why the amount of money spent on tickets had gone up" since November '11. The spokesperson said, "We were clear that we wanted to make the most of hosting the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics as a driver for growth, and decided that it was right to invest in order to maximize the economic benefits for the country" (BBC, 1/19).
BURYING THE BAD NEWS: In London, Hope & Dominiczak reported ministers have been accused of trying to "bury bad news" during the Algerian hostage crisis by "releasing the details of who received free Olympic tickets." The overall amount spent -- £1.17M ($1.86M) -- was far more than the £750,000 ($1.2M), which had previously been forecast by Sports Minister Hugh Robertson. Labour MP John Mann compared the decision to release the information during the Algerian hostage crisis with an attempt by a former adviser to Labour Cabinet Minister Stephen Byers to “bury bad news” during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mann said: "People will be very cynical about the government doing this now when everyone is rightly concentrating on what is happening in Algeria. It is yet another attempt by successive Governments to bury bad news" (TELEGRAPH, 1/18).
British sports organizations cut from funding "will be given only a few minutes to make their case" when they appeal to UK Sport this month, according to Sue Mott of the SUNDAY TIMES. Unless "hard-line decisions are reversed or amended, the Olympic careers of 35 volleyball players will be over." With no finance, there will be "no way to pay for coaches, players, performance staff or facilities." UK Sport "adheres rigorously to the view that sports unlikely to win medals in Rio should not be funded." Volleyball, basketball, table tennis and handball are due to receive no more money, a policy called “Dickensian,” “bonkers” and “dishonourable” by critics. British Volleyball is appealing the decision. It "wants a different funding model for team sports," a sentiment supported by former England rugby player and coach Clive Woodward. Each squad will be allowed seven minutes and 30 seconds to make its case at a hearing Jan. 30. UK Sport is "now under pressure to reveal the criteria by which it made its decisions," especially since water polo got a funding increase of 55% despite failing to win a match at the Olympics. Neither weightlifting or fencing achieved its pre-Olympic targets, but "receive significant increases through to Rio." Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said that while he was "broadly sympathetic" to UK Sport’s policy, a "shift in emphasis might be needed." Robertson: "We’ve reached the end of an era at UK Sport and it’s time for a fresh approach" (SUNDAY TIMES, 1/20).
BASKETBALL CUTS CRITICIZED: In London, Giuseppe Muro reported NBA Commissioner David Stern "slammed the decision to cut British basketball's funding" for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Stern said: "Before the Olympics, basketball was being talked about as a sport being played in neighbourhoods in a country bemoaning the fact they had shut down so many playing fields. The decision confounded me" (EVENING STANDARD, 1/18).