You are here

Olympics: Rio velodrome ready this month, Zika no concern: organisers

zika03.jpg
The Rio de Janeiro Olympic velodrome will be ready this month for athletes to start training there with the Games' most delayed project still to be completed two months before the competitions, organisers said on Thursday.

[LAUSANNE, Switzerland] The Rio de Janeiro Olympic velodrome will be ready this month for athletes to start training there with the Games' most delayed project still to be completed two months before the competitions, organisers said on Thursday.

Rio de Janeiro's city government on Monday said it had cancelled its contract with the company constructing the venue after the firm filed for bankruptcy protection.

"That is one of the points that we explained to the IOC," Games chief Carlos Nuzman told reporters after the organisers' final progress report to the IOC Executive board. The Games start on Aug 5.

"The Rio mayor was there (via video link) to provide these answers. At the end of June it will be in a condition for athletes to train in there."

The velodrome is the most delayed of Rio's permanent Olympic venues and an indoor cycling test event scheduled for the end of April was cancelled in March because it was not ready.

The construction of the venue has now been handed over to Engetecnica, another Brazilian company that has been working on the project as a subcontractor since February.

"The mayor gave these guarantees because he is in charge of the construction. They changed the company and he presented this clearly to the IOC," Mr Nuzman said.

He also played down any impact from the political crisis in the country with the impeachment of suspended president Dilma Rousseff and her trial scheduled to run during the Games.

"In these seven years working for the organisation of the Games a lot of things can happen," Mr Nuzman said. "Nothing interferes with our organisation."

Mr Nuzman also said the mosquito-borne Zika virus, linked to birth defects, would not be a threat for the Games. According to the World Health Organisation it did not present a health risk that would warrant moving the Games, he said.

US health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly. The World Health Organisation has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.

Mr Nuzman said several athletes, including world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic, Brazilian footballer Neymar and sprinter Usain Bolt had said they were not concerned with Zika.

Asked whether a female athlete had come out to say they were not concerned, Mr Nuzman said: "No, we don't have a female athlete." He added, however, that there was no signs the virus was keeping any athlete away from the Games.

Rio spokesman Mario Andrada said there was no need to stage any public information campaign because of what he said was a low infection rate during the winter months in Brazil.

"We had zero cases of Zika in 44 test events involving 7,000 athletes and 8,000 volunteers," Mr Andrada said. "There is no reason to engage in a public campaign." "We don't need to push and emphasise. Women planning to get pregnant have to take extra care and it is up to them and their families to decide."

REUTERS

For all our Zika coverage, go to bt.sg/zika