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May 29, 2017

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Rio feeling heat for 2016 Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO -- With two years to go Rio de Janeiro faces a marathon race to ensure their 2016 Olympic Games match the success of the World Cup.

Germany's triumph over Argentina at Rio's Maracana stadium brought the curtain down on a World Cup heralded as one of the best ever staged.

Now the spotlight falls on the "marvelous city's" ambitious US$16 billion project for the Olympics' first visit to South America.

Over half the budget, which exceeds that of the London 2012 Games, is being met by the private sector or joint private/public sources.

Early preparations for the Aug. 5-12, 2016 event had been sluggish, fuelling concerns even within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the city's ability to deliver.

For Olympic chief Thomas Bach, the Games are now Brazil's number one objective.

"I was pleased to hear the confidence President Rousseff has in the Games and what they will deliver, and it was good to hear that the Games and their legacy will be a top priority," said Bach after talks with the Brazilian president on the eve of his compatriot's World Cup win.

In April a very different tone was struck by IOC vice-president John Coates.

The Australian caused a stir when criticizing Rio's preparations as "the worst that I've experienced" in his 40 years involvement with the Olympics.

He later tried to defuse the row his comments caused by saying the city of 10 million could deliver an "excellent" Games.

Organizers are now optimistic that the deadline for Olympic-related work will be met, with 52 of the 71 Olympic projects in varying states of completion.

There are a further 27 projects targeted at improving life for Rio's inhabitants and its sprawling suburbs.

These are headed by the renovation of the port area, a new underground line and a new rapid bus system.

"We're sure that the Games in Rio will be well organized," General Fernando Azevedo e Silva, president of Brazil's Olympic Public Authority, said last week.

One of the projects that suffered delays was the Olympic venue at Deodoro, due to host seven disciplines including equestrian, cycling, shooting and fencing.

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