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Rio Games ramp up infrastructure investment

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazil will spend 24.1 billion reais (US$10.8 billion) on infrastructure projects for the 2016 Rio Olympics in an effort to ensure South America's first Games are delivered on time, organizers have announced.

The figure will take the total projected spending for the Olympics to 36.7 billion reais (US$16.3 billion), exceeding the US$15 billion cost (at today's exchange rate) of the 2012 event in London.

Last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) drew up a list of urgent recommendations to revitalize flagging preparations after Francesco Ricci Bitti, the president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations sounded the alarm over slow progress.

In addition, visiting Rio on March 21, IOC executive director Gilbert Felli had expressed concern at the lack of a detailed budget.

Despite the authorities moving to do just that the figure does not include 28 of 52 projects overall as laid down by the Public Olympic Authority (APO).

These include the cost of the delayed Deodoro zone in the northwest of the city where 11 muncipal facilities are projected to cost 900 million reais (US$400 million) while the other 17 projects do not yet have a price tag.

Rio authorities Thursday afternoon announced tenders were out for the Deodoro complex with construction planned for later this year after Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes stated Wednesday there is now “no room to spare” on the construction schedule.

Also Thursday, some 2,200 site workers at the Olympic Park in Barra de Tijuca returned to work following a two-week strike for better pay, organizers said.

Wednesday's move by federal, state and municipal authorities to put infrastructure cash on the table is designed to allay fears that the Games will not be ready on time.

With Brazil already having shelved a slew of urban mobility programs which had been slated to coincide with this year's World Cup, Rio authorities, now investing 25 percent more than planned in the 2016 event, are anxious to deliver on transport, a sector requiring major overhaul.

Of the budget, an 8.79 billion reais (US$3.9 billion) slice is going on the building of a fourth metro line in the city to link up with the western part of the city which will host many of the Games' events.

The infrastructure cash will be spread across 27 projects covering transport, including a light rail transit system, and general urban development including port modernization.

According to Paes, 58.52 percent of the total budget of 36.7 billion reais will be financed with private money and the remaining 41.48 percent through public funding.

Paes said after the figures were unveiled that 65 percent of the infrastructure cash would endure as “heritage” for the city.

Private funding is covering the organising committee's own budget of seven billion reais — up 27 percent on inital estimates — and private operators are also to upgrade Rio's international airport.

Rio won the right to stage the Games in 2009 but inflation and new projects have helped push up the cost by almost a third above initial projections.

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