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Brazil minister: Pan Ams crucial to aid Rio’s bid

September 19th, 2009

2016_olympics_rio_logoThe success of the 2007 Pan American Games has significantly helped Rio de Janeiro become a top contender to host the 2016 Olympics, Brazil’s sports minister said Friday.

Orlando Silva said the Pan Ams and the city’s revamped technical project following relatively low grades in the first round of voting marked the turning point in Rio’s bid, giving the city front-runner status ahead of the Oct. 2 deciding vote on the host of the 2016 Olympics.

“After the Pan American Games, and after the technical analysis of the project sent to the International Olympic Committee, the IOC technical team was convinced that Rio de Janeiro has the conditions to host the Olympic Games,” Silva told international correspondents.

Silva said the Olympic-style Pan Ams were a crucial learning experience for Rio and allowed it to greatly improve its bid for the 2016 games.

“The Pan American Games are a reference for us,” Silva said. “It showed us what we can do and what we can’t do.

“Rio showed technically that it can host the (Olympic) games,” he said. “We showed with the Pan American Games that it is possible.”

Rio’s Pan Ams were not glitch-free but went on mostly without significant problems to participants and the nearly 700,000 visitors.

Silva said it took “hard work” to prepare a new technical project that put Rio in condition to contend for the Olympics in equal condition with rivals Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago.

“We dealt with each challenge pointed by the (IOC) technical team,” he said. “Showing the sustainability of our proposals and their economical viability. Rio showed that today it has the same conditions as the others.”

The minister also said “the absence of (U.S.) President Barack Obama (in Copenhagen) will be felt by the city of Chicago,” but downplayed the subject and said that Brazil is only celebrating “the presence of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,” who helps Brazil with his “prestige” in the international community.

The minister said he is confident in Rio’s chances but acknowledged the vote remains “open.”

He downplayed security concerns, echoing the words of Brazil’s justice minister a day ago, who said persistent violent crime in Rio won’t prevent the city from winning its bid.

“Public security won’t be the issue that will determine the rejection or acceptance of the city’s candidacy to host the 2016 Olympics,” Justice Minister Tarso Genro said, according to the official Agencia Brasil news service.

Despite major security concerns ahead of the Pan Ams, crime dropped with the deployment of 15,000 extra police, helping Brazil win football’s World Cup for 2014.

“The violence problems that we’re facing aren’t foreign to other cities,” Genro said.

Rio was singled out as facing safety challenges in a recent IOC evaluation report. But the report praised Brazilian officials for reducing crime and adding community policing programs.

Genro suggested that Rio isn’t the only candidate city with safety concerns, and said it frequently handles large events without incident _ including a New Year’s celebration that attracts nearly two million people each year, the world’s largest annual Carnival party and the 2007 Pan American Games.

International Olympic Committee officials are more concerned about Rio’s ability to provide enough hotel rooms and adequate public transportation, Genro said at an event Thursday night to give the city $55 million in federal funding for crime fighting programs.

The Brazilian sports minister noted the 2014 World Cup should help Brazil increase the number of hotel rooms in Rio and fix most of the transportation problems ahead of the Olympics.

Rio is seeking to take the Olympics to South America for the first time.

Associated Press Writer Alan Clendenning contributed from Sao Paulo.

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