Concerns over Rio’s Olympic preparations are set to top the agenda at the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) meeting on Tuesday, after a severed arm was reportedly found in the sailing venue last week.
Photos of the arm, swirling in what appeared to be a mass of chemical foam, were sent to the O Globo newspaper by a reader who claimed it was not the first time they had seen human remains in the polluted water.
Rio’s final preparations have been beset with problems ranging from the pollution in the Guanabarra Bay sailing course and the Zika virus to more administrative issues such as budget cuts and lacklustre ticket sales.
The head of the Rio organising committee, Carlos Nuzman, is due to address the IOC board on Wednesday, where he will be under pressure to reassure Olympic officials preparations remain on-track with only five months until the opening ceremony.
The main issues facing the Rio organisers:
- Brazil is now at the centre of Zika, the mosquito-borne virus which has been linked to the foetal deformation microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller-than-usual brains. Though the link has not been conclusively proved, the outbreak has raised alarm amongst some athletes.
- As highlighted by the latest incident with the severed arm, pollution remains a major issue in the open water venues. Athletes at a recent test event complained of having to navigate through obstacles and debris, while in August last year, a German sailor contracted an illness from the water in Guanabarra Bay.
- Delays in venue construction could mean the swimming and cycling test events, scheduled for April 15-20 and April 29-May 1 respectively, will be rescheduled or completely scrapped.
- Ticket sales have been disappointing, with only half of the 4.5 million Olympic tickets sold. The situation is more worrying for the Paralympics, where only 10 percent of the 3 million tickets have been sold as of earlier this year.
- The subway line extension from the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches to Barra de Tijuica, the location of the Olympic park, is behind schedule and is unlikely to be completed in time for the Games. The IOC, however, remains optimistic the project will be delivered by August.
- The anti-doping laboratory in Rio may not allowed to test drug samples during the Games if it fails to meet the standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s standards by March 18. In such a scenario, samples would have to be flown to Switzerland or North America, raising more financial difficulties.
- Impeachment proceedings were launched against the country’s president Dilma Rousseff last year after her government was accused of breaking fiscal responsibility laws. Rousseff, whose approval ratings have sunk to around ten percent, strongly disputes the allegations.
- The country’s worst recession since the 1930s which has seen inflation up ten percent since 2014, could also force further spending cuts. The local organising committee already cut 30 percent from their operating budget in December and will now only install mosquito screens in the Olympic village if paid for.