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Will Rio de Janeiro be ready for the 2016 Olympics?

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Brazil just hosted the biggest sporting event in its history, a largely successful World Cup following a lead-up of fears over protests, delayed construction and transportation madness.

The first Olympics in South America, which will open in Rio de Janeiro two years from today, pose an even greater challenge.

Nearly 11,000 athletes (14 times as many as the World Cup) from more than 200 countries compete in 28 sports crammed into 16 days of medal competition (half the length of the World Cup). That scale and complexity also carries an estimated $20 billion price tag, several billion more than spent on the World Cup.

The weight falls on not the entire country, but mostly on a city nicknamed Cidade Maravilhosa.

Will the Marvelous City be ready?

International Olympic Committee officials gained reassurance from the World Cup.

“We are very happy that many of the concerns which were mentioned before this World Cup did not turn into reality,” IOC president Thomas Bach said before his nation, Germany, won the World Cup final at Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, which will hold the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and soccer finals in 2016. “We can really see that there is a great dynamism in their preparations.”

Bach also stressed that organizers must stay vigilant and dedicated.

That encouraging/mindful dichotomy runs through officials’ comments since the spring, when the IOC organized a special task force following problems such as construction delays, a workers’ strike and communication issues between Brazilian government and organizers.

Two years out: Rio’s readiness | Storylines: Swimming | Track and Field | Gymnastics | More Sports

Gilbert Felli, the IOC executive director for the Olympic Games, flew to Rio several months earlier than expected to oversee the acceleration of preparations.

In July, three months after being dispatched, Felli said he expected most projects back on schedule by September. He also described some deadlines as “very tense” in an Associated Press interview.

Specific tasks include the construction of the Deodoro Complex, one of four clusters of venues and that Felli said was two years behind schedule in May.

Rio mayor Eduardo Paes said Monday that 55 percent of the Olympic facilities are ready or need adjustments, according to the city’s prominent newspaper, O Globo. For comparison, Paes showed media a picture of what London’s Olympic Stadium looked like two years before the 2012 Games. It was a construction site.

Guanabara Bay, the sailing venue, is polluted, though the worst of the reported water conditions are not in competition areas, according to US Sailing. Authorities have acknowledged they won’t be able to meet a vow of cutting the pollution by 80 percent (50 percent is the new goal).

The course construction for the first Olympic golf tournaments since 1904 was also delayed, but work sped up in recent months. All of the grass is expected to be planted by the end of 2014. A test event is scheduled for August 2015.

There has also been concern over the completion of transportation between clusters and a shortage of hotel rooms.

The IOC will receive another official progress report in September.

Paes said Monday that Rio’s concerns actually helped the city win the IOC vote over Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo back in 2009.

The next two years, and the last five years, are not a burden but an opportunity for the city to prove its mettle as a bellwether for expanding the Olympics to new areas.

“The time has come for the Brazilian people to deliver something on time, on budget, with full transparency,” said Sidney Levy, Rio 2016 CEO, according to Bloomberg.

Usain Bolt wins in injury return, last race before Olympics

Usain Bolt
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Usain Bolt won his first race since suffering a strained hamstring, and his last race before the Olympics, clocking 19.89 to win a 200m in London on Friday night.

Watch the race here. Full meet results are here.

“I’m getting there, I’m not fully in shape, I need more work, but over time I’ll be fine,” Bolt said on the BBC. “I don’t think I executed well. … The key thing is I came out injury-free.”

Bolt ran hard through the line, appearing to grimace in his final several strides after coming around the turn with a small lead. He prevailed over Panama’s Alonso Edward (20.04) and Great Britain’s Adam Gemili (20.07), but the field didn’t include any of Bolt’s biggest perceived Olympic threats.

Bolt last raced three weeks ago, qualifying for the Jamaican Olympic Trials 100m final. He pulled out before the final with the hamstring injury but was still placed on the Olympic team in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay via medical exemption.

He goes into the Olympics (the 100m final is Aug. 14) ranked Nos. 4 and 5 in the world this year in the 100m and 200m but very arguably still the favorite in both races.

In 2012, Bolt was defeated by countryman Yohan Blake in the Jamaican Olympic Trials 100m and 200m, then beat Blake in both races in London.

In 2015, American Justin Gatlin entered the world championships as the world No. 1 in the 100m and 200m. Again, Bolt won both races.

This year’s rankings:
100m
1. Justin Gatlin (USA) — 9.80
2. Trayvon Bromell (USA) — 9.84
3. Jimmy Vicaut (FRA) — 9.86
4. Usain Bolt (JAM) — 9.88

200m
1. LaShawn Merritt (USA) — 19.74
2. Justin Gatlin (USA) — 19.75
3. Ameer Webb (USA) — 19.85
4. Miguel Francis (ANT) — 19.88
5. Usain Bolt (JAM) — 19.89

Earlier Friday, American Keni Harrison broke the 100m hurdles world record, two weeks after failing to make the Olympic team.

The Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller ran the fastest women’s 400m in the world this year, a personal-best 49.55, cementing her status as the biggest threat to Allyson Felix in the Olympics.

Felix, who won the Olympic Trials in 49.68, was not in Friday’s race. Felix won the 2015 World Championships in 49.26, with Miller taking silver in 49.67.

Vicaut won the men’s 100m in 10.02 seconds, with a slight tailwind, against a lackluster field.

Vicaut came into this meet as an Olympic medal contender, one of three men to go sub-9.90 multiple times this year, but leaves it with his medal chances slightly lower.

MORE: Details on the U.S. Olympic team, largest of any nation in Rio

Keni Harrison breaks 100m hurdles world record after missing Olympic team

Keni Harrison
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Keni Harrison broke a 28-year-old world record in the 100m hurdles on Friday, two weeks after she failed to make the U.S. Olympic team.

Harrison, 23, clocked 12.20 seconds at a meet in London, beating the old mark by .01. Watch the race here.

In 1988, Bulgaria’s Yordanka Donkova clocked 12.21.

“Not making the Olympic team I was truly upset, and I wanted to come out here and do what I know I could have done,” Harrison said on the BBC. “I was coming out here with a vengeance to show these girls what I have.”

Harrison, who on May 28 broke the American record with a 12.24-second win at the Prefontaine Classic, was sixth at the Olympic Trials on July 8, when the top three made the team for Rio.

The three women who beat Harrison at Trials finished second, third and fourth on Friday — Brianna RollinsKristi Castlin and Nia Ali.

MORE: Details on the U.S. Olympic team, largest of any nation in Rio