John Coates

IOC vice president: Rio Olympic preparations ‘worst’ ever

13 Comments

Preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics are “the worst I have experienced,” International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates said Tuesday.

Coates, the president of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), has been an IOC member since 2001 and involved in the Summer Games for more than 30 years. He has visited Rio de Janeiro six times as part of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Games.

“They are not ready in many many ways,” Coates said, according to the AOC, at an Olympic forum in Sydney. “The city also has social issues that need to be addressed.”

Coates said there is no plan B and that the Games are going to Rio in two years.

He repeated concerns the IOC has voices about delayed preparations and said the situation is worse than that of Athens 2004. Four years before the Athens Olympics, then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch gave Games organizers a warning for being in a “yellow phase” with “many problems.” A green phase meant everything was proceeding smoothly, and a red phase meant the Games were in danger.

Coates said the IOC’s measure to embed officials in Rio’s Organizing Committee is “unprecedented.”

“The situation is critical on the ground,” Coates said. “We have to make it happen, and that is the IOC approach. You can’t walk away from this.”

Coates detailed publicized issues at the forum, such as construction not yet starting on some venues. The resignation of a top official, political and communication issues and a worker strike have recently set back the organization of the first Olympics in South America. Water quality is a major concern, he said.

Rio 2016 posted a statement on its website later Tuesday.

“Rio will host excellent Games that will be delivered absolutely within the agreed timelines and budgets,” it read.

The IOC, which has sent executive director Gilbert Felli to Rio, also issued a statement.

“Mr. Felli has received a very positive response on the ground in the past few days, and a number of recent developments show that things are moving in the right direction,” the IOC said. “Now is a time to look forward to work together and to deliver great games for Rio, Brazil and for the world, and not to engage in discussion of the past. We continue to believe that Rio is capable of providing outstanding games.”

Catching up with Laura Wilkinson

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban