Air conditioning in athletes village hit by Rio budget cuts

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The 10,500 athletes at next year’s Olympics will feel first-hand the deep budget cuts buffeting the Rio de Janeiro Games: they won’t have air conditioning in their bedrooms unless someone pays for it.

Charging for air conditioning is part of what games organizers call finding “fat” and cutting it.

Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio Games, said in an interview that organizers have found up to 2 billion reals ($520 million) that needed to be cut as part of balancing the operating budget of 7.4 billion reals ($1.9 billion).

Asked specifically about the need for AC in the bedrooms, Andrada replied: “We don’t think it’s going to be critical (to have air conditioning) there.”

Though the games take place in the South American winter — Aug. 5-21, 2016 — it could still be hot. This year on Aug. 19 the temperature soared to 35.4 degrees C (95.7 degrees F).

Andrada said national federations might pay for some athletes, though it’s unclear if poorer federations could handle the added costs.

Rio Olympic organizers are being hit by a deep recession, a steep fall in the value of the local currency against the dollar, and 10 percent inflation. There is also a spreading corruption scandal involving state-run oil giant Petrobras that has been part of triggering impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

This wasn’t the mood in 2009 when Rio won the bid, setting off wild celebrations on Copacabana beach.

“We are discussing with our partners, especially the IOC, what kind of levels of service we can reduce,” Andrada said.

Rio officials say most of the cuts involve “behind-the-scenes” facilities, unseen on television or by ticket-paying customers. This could involve organizers buying cheaper products and services, reducing signage, or using more temporary structures.

“It (cutting) hasn’t been painful so far,” Andrada said. “It will be painful from now on because we need to finish the process.”

The games were to have 5,000 employees when they open in eight months. That’s been scaled back by 500.

“Some of them are going to be unhappy,” Andrada said. “That’s normal.”

The cuts will be welcomed by those asking why Brazil, with poor schools, under-funded hospitals and high taxes, has spent more than $20 billion to organize last year’s World Cup and the Olympics.

The image of thrift suits International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who has tried to change a perception the games are too expensive and benefit only a few.

In a reply to an email, the IOC congratulated organizers “for working toward a balanced budget.”

The IOC contributes about $1.5 billion to the operating budget.

Fernando Meirelles, the famous Brazilian filmmaker of “City of God” who is working on the opening ceremony, accepts the austerity.

“A country that doesn’t have basic sanitation can’t spend the fortune that was spent in London or Beijing,” he said.

Andrada said the cuts would not affect the sports themselves.

“As long as we don’t compromise the games, the quality of the competitions, the experience of the public — then we have to look for efficiencies,” he said.

The operating budget is for running the games themselves with income from the IOC, marketing, tickets sales and local sponsorship sales.

A separate capital budget of about 39 billion reals ($10 billion), a mix of public and private money, is being used to build sports venues, roads and other facilities needed to stage the games.

Andrada said a $700 million “contingency fund” backed by the federal government in the original bid document could still be used as a bailout.

The IOC requires host countries to make up for any budget shortfalls.

“We haven’t been told that they (government) won’t put up the money,” Andrada said. “The $700 million is a commitment the government made in the contract, so it’s for the government to decide.”

Unrelated to budget cuts, Andrada said organizers had yet to sign a contract with a private energy company to supply electricity for the games, meaning that power may come only from temporary generators.

“We do have a concrete plan,” Andrada said. “The plan is being executed but we haven’t got the final solution for the problem.”

Andrada termed using only generators the “B Plan” and said the responsibility to provide energy belonged to the national government.

The IOC said “we expect the Brazilian organizers to deliver” on energy provision.

Andrada acknowledged delays were tied to Brazil’s bureaucracy, particularly with the politics and corruption scandals upstaging the Olympics.

“This is a problem that should have been fixed a while ago,” he said. “We will have energy. Don’t get scared.”

VIDEO: Aerial footage of Rio Olympic park progress

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

Oleksandr Abramenko
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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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Freestyle skiers in World Cup action on NBC Sports, Peacock

Ski Halfpipe
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Olympic gold medalists David Wise and Alex Hall headline World Cup freestyle skiing and snowboarding stops in the U.S. this weekend, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

Wise, who last Sunday won his fifth X Games Aspen ski halfpipe title, led the qualifiers into the final at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in California.

He’s joined in the 10-man final by U.S. Olympic teammates Aaron Blunck and Birk Irving. The women’s ski halfpipe final includes the top three from last week’s X Games — Brit Zoe Atkin, Canadian Rachael Karker and American Svea Irving. Olympic champion Eileen Gu of China is out after suffering a knee injury in an X Games training crash.

The ski slopestyle finals include the reigning men’s and women’s Olympic gold medalists — Hall, plus Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland.

The marquee snowboarders in Mammoth finals are Olympic big air silver medalist Julia Marino (slopestyle) and X Games silver medalist Maddie Mastro (halfpipe). Two-time Olympic champion Chloe Kim is taking the season off, and another double Olympic champion, Jamie Anderson, is pregnant.

Aerials and moguls skiers are competing in their lone U.S. World Cup stop in Park City, Utah.

The moguls fields including Olympic gold medalists Walter Wallberg of Sweden, Mikael Kingsbury of the U.S., Perrine Laffont of France and Jakara Anthony of Australia. Olympic silver medalist Jaelin Kauf is the standout American.

The aerials include every member of the U.S. team that took gold at last year’s Olympics — Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld.

Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding World Cup Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Saturday Moguls 11 a.m. CNBC, Peacock
Ski Halfpipe 3 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Sunday Ski Slopestyle 12 p.m. CNBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Aerials, Dual Moguls 2 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Snowboard Halfpipe 2 p.m. CNBC, Peacock

All NBC and CNBC coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

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