POSTED: May 6th 2016

NEIL WILSON: Rio 2016 on track for its final dress rehearsal

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Good news from Rio. As you read it here there are men with machines in the Olympic Stadium painting lines around a track.

Not before time. The Ibero-American Championships in Athletics, the stadium's official test event for the Olympic Games, will start there next week (May 14).

There was some doubt that it would.  At the beginning of last week there was not a track there on which to paint lines.

Only on April 27 did Mondo, the Italian company commissioned to provide the track, complete their work, with line painting scheduled to take two weeks. That left very few days to spare.

The whole enterprise was intended to be finished at the end of March, allowing six weeks for any hiccups. The Italians have needed almost every day of it.

Not their fault. All sorts of excuses have been made by the Rio organisers, from extreme weather delaying repair work on the Maracana Stadium to $225,000 in unpaid electricity bills leaving contractors without power to work.

Word from sources at the IAAF is that there was also contractual payments that Mondo awaited before starting work. So short of cash are the organisers that bill are not being paid until the 59th minute of the 11th hour.

 Since it won the Games in 2009, when Brazil was a thriving member of the BRIC group of rising economies little has gone right for it. And the Olympic Games has been the loser. Rio2016's budget has been cut to the hone

Previous test events have exposed that bone. Power outages at the gymnastics and swimming embarrassed the host. The cycling test event was postponed. The golf test was shamefully reduced to a group of locals, in the words of one critic, "playing nine holes in their lunch hour".

As for the sailing course, IOC president Thomas Bach admitted last week that the pollution from raw sewage had been reduced by 60%, as if that was acceptable.

Whether a 60% improvement would entice members of the IOC Coordination Commission to "jump into the Bay to prove it is clean" as its chair Nawal El Moutawakel promised last year is not known.

The athletics and a football double-header in the Olympic Stadium a few days later are the final Test events for the Olympics. Hopefully for all the glitches they have revealed, it will be all right on the night.

The Rio Olympics' saving grace will be that it is wonderful to look at. The city is beautiful. Its Olympics will look good.  And the two-tone blue (yes, blue!) track, judging by the photographs, adds to that splendour. 

Better that it was late than never.  

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books. 

Keywords · Olympics · Rio 2016

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