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Rio 2016 Olympics Progress Impressive, Says IOC in Change of Tone

Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, prepares to take a photo with workers as IOC Coordination Commission head Nawal El Moutawakel (bottom L) watches during a visit to the Rio 2016 Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro September 30, 2014.

In a dramatic change of tone Olympic officials said on Wednesday they were impressed by progress being made in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Games, just months after the preparations were described by one member as “the worst” ever.

After a three-day visit around sites and venues, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that although the schedule was still tight and accommodation remained a challenge, core projects were now moving quickly.

‘Part of history’

The committee did not comment on legal action taken against the Olympic golf course, which could force last-minute changes to the design.

“We leave reassured by the huge progress that has been made in the last few months,” Nawal El Moutawakel, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, told reporters in Rio de Janeiro.

“What was happening back in March is part of history,” she added.

The comments reflect a turnaround from the last visit, when the IOC expressed alarm at the amount of planning and budget work that remained to be done, urging more collaboration between different layers of government.

In April, IOC Vice President John Coates described the preparations for Rio 2016 as “the worst that I've experienced.” Such criticism is unprecedented from the IOC, which tends to put on a positive face in public.

Fresh dynamism

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, however, IOC President Thomas Bach said organizers in Rio had rediscovered their dynamism, taking confidence from the successful hosting of the soccer World Cup this year.

At the press conference on Wednesday, officials would not go into details about what exactly had changed on the ground to result in such a dramatic turnaround.

The IOC visited the Olympic village, golf course and Olympic park over the past three days. They also received a report on progress at the Deodoro Sporting complex, which will host 11 sports including mountain biking and kayaking.

Deodoro was the last site to break ground and had come under criticism for slow progress, but the IOC said the report they received was reassuring.

On Tuesday Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, said in a speech at the Olympic park that the IOC visit, which she accompanied, had gone well.

We will prove, as we did with the World Cup, that we can put on the Olympics of all Olympics,” recycling the slogan the government used to describe Brazil's World Cup.

Legal tangle

The Olympic golf course has been one headache for local organizers, with the city and developers entangled in legal action over the design of the course.

A judge has asked if the design of the course could be altered to alleviate environmental concerns. A decision will be made in the next month on what those changes will involve.

Major alterations could delay the project and increase costs as well as reduce the quality of the course.

The IOC declined to answer questions on the process, saying it was for the city organizers to deal with and that they had been impressed by the course during their visit.

Officials said that accommodation remained a challenge but the 68 new hotels under construction were on track.

“We are in that critical phase and a lot will have to be done,” said Christophe Dubi, Olympic Games executive director for the IOC.