Rio governor: Games threatened by shortfall
Rio de Janeiro’s acting governor warned Monday that the Olympic Games could be a “big failure,” because of budget shortfalls that threaten to compromise security and mobility during the games.
In an interview with Rio’s O Globo daily, Francisco Dornelles said the state is still awaiting an $860 million payout from the federal government aimed at shoring up state coffers ahead of the Aug. 5-21 event. The funds were allocated last week but have not yet reached the state, and Dornelles warned that without them, police patrols might grind to a halt by the end of the week, for lack of gas money.
“How are people going to feel protected in a city without security?” Dornelles asked. “I’m optimistic about the Games, but I have to show reality. We can have a great Olympics, but if some steps aren’t taken, it can be a big failure.”
Rio has been particularly hard-hit by the recession besetting Brazil. The Brazil economy shrunk by around 4 percent last year and joblessness spiked. The state is highly reliant on sinking oil royalties, and prior governments awarded billions in tax exemptions that resulted in near-empty coffers.
Another worrying issue for Dornelles is the metro line that was meant to ferry tourists to the main Olympic venue in the far-western Rio area of Barra da Tijuca. Promised for late last year, the metro is still not ready. A nearly $290 million federal loan aimed at finishing the project also has not yet been released.
“I’ve said that without security and without the metro there will be difficulties,” Dornelles said. He said the policy of deferring or paying state workers’ salaries in installments “is a form of slave labor.”
Formerly Rio’s vice governor, Dornelles, 81, was thrust into the hot seat after Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and took medical leave earlier this year.
Double equestrian gold medalist Sir Mark Todd will become, at 60, New Zealand’s oldest Olympian when he competes at his eighth Games. He will be attempting to win his sixth Olympic medal, 32 years after winning his first.