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  • On the Scene -- IOC Commission Chief Praises Rio de Janeiro, Minus "Passion"


    Gilbert Felli and Nawal Ed Moutawakel meet the press. (ATR: Panasonic/Lumix)
    (ATR) The chair of the IOC Evaluation Commission for the 2016 Olympics says she is impressed with the unity of government support for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic bid, but avoids words such as "passion" or "compact" in her praise for the project.

    "During our stay we have witnessed the unity of the whole bid team and the leadership of the NOC and the full alignment of the three levels of government," Nawal El Moutawakel said in the closing press conference Saturday after four days of briefings.

    But the IOC member from Morocco, who called Chicago "vibrant" and Tokyo "dynamic," refrained from addressing the enthusiasm of the Rio 2016 bid, which carries the slogan "Live your passion."

    While she praised Rio's dream and vision, El Moutawakel reiterated that ideas are not something that can be evaluated by this commission.

    "Our role will be to assess technically the bid," she said, "to be the eyes and ears of the IOC members."

    In a final effort to make a lasting impression on the commission before it leaves Rio, the members will pass underneath a bid
    Nawal El Moutawakel said the commission would comment only on positive aspects of the bid. (ATR: Panasonic/Lumix)
    banner at the airport that says, "We miss you already."

    Madrid will be the group's final stop next week. They will then release their report on Sept. 2, one month before the IOC votes in Copenhagen.

    El Moutawakel said the commission was pleased to be "in this beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro where sports plays such a huge part in people's lives." She used the same words about sports to describe Chicago in early April.

    El Moutawakel described the Chicago and Tokyo bids as compact, but didn't give Rio that designation.

    Asked about the distance between venues, Gilbert Felli, executive director of the Olympic Games, said the group had spent 10-12 hour days touring each of the three cities. But travel time will be an important aspect of the Games experience for athletes, spectators and other members of the Olympic Family during the Games.

    "We know some venues take more time to travel to than others," he said.

    Asked to comment on any negative aspects of the bid, El Moutawakel said, "I can only assure you on positive comments, I will not be saying any negative comments. All that we are seeing so far is positive."

    Rio bid leaders said they were pleased by El Moutawakel's comments. Only Carlos Nuzman, the president of Rio 2016 and the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and Carlos Roberto Osorio, the bid's secretary general, addressed the media in their final press conference.

    "I believe we have a lot to take away with us," Nuzman said. "This visit is a key visit which is crucial for the next steps into the future. We are now strengthened. We now stand out and we are safe. I'm sure that Rio will be the city that will be very strong on Oct. 2, you can be sure of that."

    Osorio said Brazil "showed its best face" to the Evaluation Commission.

    "In our four days of work, Brazil showed for the IOC its A-Team," Osorio said. "Every best person - government officials, business leaders, athletes, members of the community -- were involved in the presentations. We didn't show anyone by video, by letter.

    "We showed the IOC that our plans are sound; they come with guarantees. We understand the Olympic Games is a product, a premium. We are not going to offer any solution that isn't right for the Games."

    Osorio said Rio has the greatest potential among the four candidates to transform the city, country and continent.

    "There is not one more event for us," he said. "This is the THE event. (It's) not life goes on. No, it's a game-changer."

    Rio 2016 pulled out all the stops. The country's popular president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, met with IOC members during a briefing and also the "City Night" dinner hosted by the bid committee.

    El Moutawakel was duly impressed, speaking at length about his vision.

    "We found behind Lula, a dream of a city and also a dream of a nation," she said. "He is a strong supprorter of Rio de Janeiro's bid for three
    Bid leader Carlos Nuzman. (ATR: Panasonic/Lumix)
    main reasons. One reason is the social inclusion for the youth of Brazil and the youth of Rio. The second point is there is a development of all sports infrastructure and other infrastructure that can be a long legacy for the city and country. And the third point is to bring major big events to the icty and the country, like the World Cup 2014, and World Military Games and having this bid in this part of the world can be important not only for the city, but the country and the continent."

    El Moutawakel said that Lula has said that Rio is ready and the people of Brazil are ready.

    "We were impressed by the fact that the Games fit perfectly and very well in Brazil's long-term planning and support and development of the country," she said. "There is a vision between now and many years yet to come, these Olympic Games come right in the middle of a global vision led by President Lula and the entire government."

    El Moutawakel said the IOC had been given solid financial guarantees.

    "I think all the money that will be invested . will be a lasting legacy for the city and the country," she said. "It is going to be invested in infrastructure such as roads, airports, accommodations, hotels and sports."

    Felli said the vision continues the legacy from the 2007 Pan American Games in contributing to the social aspect of Brazil.

    Now Rio has to prove it can handle two huge events within the space of two years.

    Rio 2016 secretary general Carlos Osorio speaking to media. (ATR: Panasonic/Lumix)
    will host the 2014 World Cup with the final most likely in Rio.

    "I can tell you for us the World Cup for 2014 can be a good test event of the Olympic Games," El Moutawakel said.

    Added Felli, "Of course this is something we have discussed with the bid committee."

    He noted that Germany, the United States and Mexico had also held the events two years apart.

    "I would say the benefit is greater than the risk," Felli said.

    In the IOC's initial assessment of the applicant cities, Rio scored poorly on accommodations. Felli praised the plan to use cruise ships in the harbor and a new media village built in Barra da Tijuca. "This solution is a good solution," he said. "We can close the gap between the other numbers."

    That was a relief to Rio 2016. "I was glad to hear Gilbert Felli on accommodations because we studied that a lot," Osorio said. "We are certain that our accommodations proposition is very strong, I would say even stronger because we are putting the clents where they need to be. . We can be creative. We can be innovative."

    Safety and security were another issue that gave Rio low marks in the first report. El Moutawakel said that theme was discussed at length and is a top priority.

    "We have been given a reassurance that all that can be done will be done to make Rio a safe city to organize the Games," she said.

    Ricardo Balestreri, National Public Security Secretary, told reporters earlier Saturday that El Moutawakel said the commission's usual impression of Rio's safety record in the international media was "in general negative," and "in our presentation they found many positive and concrete elements. She challenged us to be able to communicate fully the good things we are doing so we can have a counterpoint to the news that are transmitted abroad."

    El Moutawakel cited the work done to bring youth sports programs to a the Santa Marta community, where police officials said the crime rate had dropped 80 percent in the two years since the project began.

    Felli said the commission was " very surprised" by the information it was given in the briefing, " a new way to tackle security and a new approach to deal with the subject."

    El Moutawakel said the commission was also impressed by the high quality of presentations, especially those by Olympic and Paralympic athletes. "That was very moving to me," she said, but added, "This is not enough for us in the final report, because we will rely on technical aspects to finalize our report."

    This is the fourth time Brazil has bid for the Olympics. Brasilia bid in 2000 and Rio bid in 2004 and 2012.

    "It's all a matter of maturing," Nuzman said. "We have been ripening, so to speak."

    Written by Karen Rosen.

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