RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The IOC says preparations for the 2016 Olympics are on schedule but stressed to Rio de Janeiro organizers the need to remain vigilant in a "critical" year for the games.
The International Olympic Commttee coordination commission ended its latest visit on Wednesday saying it saw progress in the city's preparations but recognized there was a tight schedule to get a lot of work done.
"We've seen solid progress this week," commission president Nawal El Moutawakel said at a news conference. "However, many projects will still have to be delivered simultaneously. Despite this large amount of work still to be done, we remain confident, but we must all stay vigilant and continue to work hard so that the timelines are respected."
The commission made its first visit of the year to Rio, and fourth since the city won the bid for the first games in South America. It visited Maracana Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, as well as the city's renovated port area and the local organizing committee's new headquarters. The three-day trip also was marked by meetings with local organizers.
"We will leave Rio in a few hours satisfied by what we have seen, satisfied by what we have heard; time is of the essence but we have confidence that Rio, and we have confidence that Brazil will deliver," El Moutawakel said.
The commission said 2013 will be key for the city because much of the work needed for the Olympics must get under way now.
"The year ahead will be a critical one for Rio 2016, with work needed to begin at a number of sports venues in order to meet the deadlines for test events ahead of the games," the IOC said in a statement. "Such events are crucial in making sure that the Olympic Games run smoothly."
The IOC was in Rio for the first time since saying that "time is ticking" and that organizers must attack the project "with all vigor" to guarantee a successful event in 2016. Last week, IOC President Jacques Rogge said he didn't think he would need to publicly warn organizers about delays despite reports of slow progress in preparations.
"I repeat here what the IOC president said in Lausanne," IOC executive director Gilbert Felli said. "We don't have any yellow card to send to Rio. Everything is working according to pace."
Felli had a blunt "no" answer when asked if Rio was behind schedule on its preparations.
The commission said there was progress made since the last visit in June, especially on the media villages, the venues master plan and the recruitment of staff by the local committee. But it also said there was still "a task of great magnitude" ahead to deliver the Olympic parks and many of the supporting infrastructures.
There were other unanswered questions after the commission left.
With three years to go before the games, the official budget was yet to be announced, and new organizing committee CEO Sidney Levy said a final number likely won't be revealed before May.
The commission said it recognized that a lot of work had been done regarding Rio's accommodation plan but underlined that "many hotel constructions were still to be confirmed" in the next few months.
"The final accommodation plan is an essential building block for many games operations," the IOC said.
Nearly 65 new hotels were expected to be built in the city ahead of the games.
Local organizers said they were still working with international federations to analyze options for the venues for rugby, basketball, diving and fencing. Field hockey was expected to be moved from the main Olympic Park to the Deodoro cluster.
Before finalizing the last day of the visit, Moutawakel was caught by surprise by a local court official waiting to meet her at her hotel to deliver a document notifying her and the IOC about the ongoing legal dispute involving the land where the Olympic golf course is expected to be built.
She said she complied but couldn't comment further because the document will have to be translated and analyzed by IOC lawyers in Switzerland.
Felli said the commission will closely observe how Rio will host the upcoming Confederations Cup and the World Cup, although he made it clear the IOC will not interfere in FIFA's organization of the football events.
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