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  • On the Scene -- IOC Venue Tour in Rio


    Pele and Nawal El Moutawakel mug for the cameras. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    Brazilian sports treasure Pele turned on the charm Friday for the Rio de Janeiro bid for the 2016 Olympics, having fun with the IOC inspection team travelling the city on a venue tour.

    It sounds as if he made an impression on Nawal El Moutawakel, chair of the IOC panel.

    "Signature of Pelé!" she said, holding up an autographed ball and making a rare statement to the media outside of the official press conference.

    Pele, 68, greeted the commission at Maracana Stadium, the fabled arena where the Pele legend grew. The 80,000 seat stadium will host football and opening and closing ceremonies – as well as the final match for World Cup 2014.

    El Moutawakel also showed off her ball skills, with a few deft kicks from the former track champion.

    Rio de Janeiro is the third stop on the Evaluation Commission tour of the four candidate cities. In Chicago and Tokyo, the venue tour was held on the second day of the visit, but Rio's tour was on the third day to take advantage of the May 1 holiday. The move allowed the commission to move more freely across the city’s often snarled streets.

    Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman tells Around the Rings that the visit moved smoothly and on schedule, even with the detour to the rowing venue.

    Rain -- which marred the Chicago and Tokyo tours -- threatened, but only a few drops fell and the day was mostly sunny and warm.

    The tour began at Forte de Copacabana at the end of Copacabana Beach. An honor guard in uniform and children in Rio 2016 T-shirts greeted the commission. They then walked past heavy artillery on the ramparts, accompanied by the big guns of Rio 2016: Nuzman, Mayor Eduardo Paes and federal sports minister Orlando Silva.

    Along the beach, white balloons showed where the beach volleyball venue would be played and a red balloon marked the marathon swimming event.

    After a short presentation on the Copacabana Zone inside the fort, the commission came outside for an air show by the Brazilian Air Demonstration squadron. Seven planes performed barrel rolls, dives and crossing maneuvers, trailing plumes of colored smoke while flying low over the water.

    On their way to the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca, where 50 percent of the competitions will be held, the Evaluation Commission asked for an unscheduled detour to Lagoa, the site of the rowing venue.

    The switch forced a bus carrying about a dozen camera crews and about 20 still photographers to drive very slowly the 20km out to Barra.

    The road to Barra de Tijuca included a Wal-Mart, a Hard Rock Café, the Brazilian Olympic Committee and a group of seven billboards touting the bid.
    The IOC commission at Maracana. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    The area also includes poor neighborhoods, some adjacent to the venues that were built for the Pan American Games.

    Arriving at the HSBC Arena, venue for gymnastics, throngs of children with their faces painted with Rio 2016 logos greeted the commission.

    The commission heard a presentation in the HSBC Arena while the media was ushered into a waiting room for refreshment.

    At the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre, which will host water polo and diving, Paes challenged Olympic champion Alexander Popov, an IOC member, to get on the blocks, where they were joined by Gustavo Borges, the Olympic champ from Brazil, and Paralympian Daniel Dias.

    Rio de Janeiro used the human touch again as the IOC left the venue, with hundreds of volunteers linking arms on each side of the road as a send-off.

    At Joao Havelange Stadium, groups of children in brightly-colored T-shirts enjoyed a field day, participating in various races and skill events. El Moutawakel and some of the others took a turn when they walked onto the grass of the stadium which will be expanded from 40,000 to 60,000 seats and used for athletics.

    El Moutawakel even raced Paes down the track.

    After lunch at Havelange Stadium, the Evaluation Commission traveled to Maracanazinho Gymnasium, which will host volleyball.

    The IOC split into two groups for the afternoon stops.

    At Maracana bid organizers made the most of the stage.

    Before the commission appeared, crowd noise was played over the loudspeaker and children unfurled a huge Brazilian flag in the lower level of the stands. The commission came onto the field as each member’s name was announced.

    When the announcer said, "No. 10, Pele," he
    Children were part of the events for the IOC tour.(ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    emerged from the other side of the field wearing the gold-colored shirt worn by all of the athletes supporting the bid. He didn't kick the ball, to the disappointment of the journalists.

    The Maracana IOC group headed to the Marina de Gloria sailing venue, followed by a ride in their own private metro car for the ride back to Copacabana.

    The other IOC group headed to the Deodoro cluster in the far west of the city. Equestrian, mountain bike and shooting are among the seven events scheduled there.

    The IOC commission ends its Rio de Janeiro sojourn Saturday with reports from the bid on security and media operations. Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral is due to deliver the security presentation. El Moutawakel will hold a closing press conference followed by one from Rio de Janeiro.

    Written by Karen Rosen in Rio de Janeiro

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