IOC VP John Coates "has rowed back on his trenchant criticism" of the preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics, saying he is certain the city will be able to host a "great" event, according to Nick Mulvenney of REUTERS. The Australian told an Olympic forum in Sydney on Tuesday that Brazil "was critically behind schedule in their preparations and the situation was 'the worst' he had ever witnessed." In a statement, Coates said, "I want to underline that I still believe that Rio Organizing Committee and the people of Brazil can indeed deliver excellent Games in 2016." Coates, who has made several trips to Rio as part of the coordination commission inspectorate for the Games, said that "he had been reassured" after speaking to his IOC colleague, Exec Dir Gilbert Felli, on Wednesday. Coates: "He has provided me with a positive update of progress and the support and positive response he is receiving from the organizing committee. Time is of the essence but things are moving in the right direction" (REUTERS, 5/1).
PyeongChang's preparations for the 2018 Winter Games "got a thumbs up" from the IOC on Thursday, "a stark contrast to ongoing concerns over Rio de Janeiro's tardy progress for the 2016 summer Games," according to Amlan Chakraborty of REUTERS. An IOC coordination commission inspected Olympic villages, the sliding center and venues for speed skating, figure skating, short track, ice hockey and curling at the South Korean mountain resort, "and were clearly impressed." Commission Chair Gunilla Lindberg said in a statement, "We have had three excellent days of meetings and I'd like to congratulate President Kim (Jin-sun) of POCOG and his team for the quality of their work. We were able to see that a large amount has been accomplished by POCOG and its partners since our last visit in June 2013." The commission was happy with the progress of a new highway and the high-speed train connections with capital Seoul, "which the commission felt would leave a great legacy for South Korea" (REUTERS, 5/1). In Seoul, Jung Min-ho wrote the POCOG said that the sliding center and Alpine skiing venue "have already been under construction, while construction of ice rinks in Gangneung will begin on May 22." The construction projects "are scheduled to be completed" by Sept. '17 before test events begin that year. The members "also visited the site of the two Olympic Villages that will accommodate athletes during the Games." Lindberg: “We’re especially happy with the Mountain Village because we’ve been struggling a bit there but now they presented a new concept and it's good" (KOREA TIMES, 5/1).
Poor water quality "is shaping as the biggest health risk for athletes" at the Rio Olympics in '16, according to Nicole Jeffery of THE AUSTRALIAN. The national sailing team "will be the first group of Australian athletes to test the waters in Rio." Sailing officials and team medical staff acknowledged on Wednesday that "they faced challenges to keep the athletes healthy while they competed in polluted water." Australian Olympic team Chief Medical Officer David Hughes said that "untreated sewage was pumped into the ocean near the sailing venue." Hughes told the national sports federations assembled in Sydney for their annual planning forum that all water-based sports were at risk and would have to maintain a "high level of vigilance around gastrointestinal and skin infection issues" in Rio. Hughes: “There is lots of work being done in Rio to advance the water quality and we expect it will improve a great deal (by '16)" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 5/1).