Eduardo Paes

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Former Rio mayor probed in Olympic-linked corruption scandal

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, the moving force behind organizing last year’s Olympics, is being investigated for allegedly accepting at least 15 million reals ($5 million) in payments to facilitate construction projects tied to the Games.

Paes is one of dozens of top politicians implicated in a sweeping judicial corruption investigation in which construction giant Odebrecht illegally paid billions to help win contracts.

Paes’ name appears in documents published Tuesday by Brazil’s top court, and could stand trial if the country’s attorney general decides to prosecute.

In a statement Wednesday from his spokeswoman, Tereza Fayal, the former mayor strongly denied the allegations made in several plea bargains signed by former and present Odebrecht employees, calling the accusations “absurd and untruthful.”

“He vehemently denies that he has accepted bribes to facilitate, or to benefit, the interests of the Odebrecht company,” the statement said.

Paes stepped in forcefully about two years before the Olympics opened, shortly after International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates called Rio’s preparations “the worst” he’d ever seen and woefully behind schedule.

The IOC repeatedly credited Paes with speeding up preparations and cutting through red tape.

As rumors swirled around Olympic preparations, Paes often challenged reporters to find any corruption in city-hall contracts.

Days after the trouble-plagued Olympics ended, Paes and Carlos Nuzman — an IOC member and the president of the organizing committee — were awarded the “Olympic Order” by IOC President Thomas Bach.

In a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press, the IOC said Paes should be regarded as innocent until proven otherwise.

“These are allegations which he (Paes) strenuously denies,” the IOC said.

Odebrecht was involved in building many Olympic-related projects, including several arenas at the Olympic Park in suburban Barra de Tijuca, a subway-line extension, and the renovation of Rio’s port area.

The Supreme Court documents showed Paes received more 11 million reals ($3.5 million) in local bank accounts, and the rest in off-shore accounts.

In the statement, Paes said “he’s never had off-shore accounts.”

Paes left office on Jan. 1 after a term-limited eight years. He was once viewed as a presidential candidate, hoping to use the Olympics as a springboard. He recently said he hoped to run next year for governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

He is referred to in the Odebrecht documents as “The Little Nervous One.”

Plea bargains also indicate that irregularities — none of them involving Paes — were seen in awarding contracts for at least three stadiums for the 2014 World Cup: Sao Paulo, Recife and Brasilia.

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Rio mayor hopes Pokemon Go is launched in Brazil before Olympics

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Pokemon Go launched a week ago, and already it’s the biggest mobile game in U.S. history.

It’s not yet available in many areas of the world, like Brazil, but the mayor of Rio de Janeiro is doing his part to get the hit game in his city before it hosts the world for the Olympics. Eduardo Paes posted a message on his Facebook page asking Nintendo to launch the game in Brazil.

Alô, Nintendo! Faltam 23 dias para as Olimpíadas Rio 2016. O mundo todo tá vindo pra cá. Venha também! #CidadeOlímpica #Rio2016 #PokemonGoNoBrasil

Posted by Eduardo Paes on Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Facebook translates the message to say: “Hello, Nintendo! 23 days to go to the Olympics Rio 2016. The whole world is coming here. Come too!”

If the game’s developers continue to fix their server issues, which became a problem because so many downloads occurred immediately after the game’s release, Pokemon Go could be a reality in Rio for the Olympics. It was launched in Germany on Wednesday.

If you’re wondering exactly what Pokemon Go is, this video may help:

Or Vox explains the phenomenon in less than 400 words.

h/t Shack News

Free Rio Olympic tickets will be offered to diversify crowds, reports say

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Rio de Janeiro’s mayor said some 2016 Olympic tickets will be given away, to make crowds more diverse than at the World Cup, according to reports.

“What we will do is give some subsidies for some of the tickets,” mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters in Rio on Friday, according to Bloomberg. “We will try to do something more democratic.”

Bloomberg cited a poll stating that 90 percent of the crowd at Brazil’s round of 16 win over Chile on June 28 came from the nation’s top two economic classes, which make up 15 percent of the population.

Paes also updated Olympic preparations, saying 55 percent of venues were ready or being adapted, according to Agence France-Presse.

“I think all the criticism that we faced before the World Cup helped a lot to smooth concerns about the Olympic Games,” Paes said, according to AFP. “This mistrust that we had two months ago, we don’t face anymore.

“I’m not saying that we have an easy task ahead of us. It’s not easy to do the Olympics. We still have lots of work ahead of us, but we are confident that we will deliver things on time.”

Paes said work was being accelerated on Guanabara Bay, whose water pollution levels came under scrutiny in May. A test event is scheduled there in August.

“It’s going to be clean, there’s no risk for the athletes,” Paes said. “There are some problems far away from the Olympic space.”

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, said the 2016 Olympics will be the nation’s “top priority” come Monday, the day after the World Cup final in Rio. Rousseff met with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on Friday.

“I was pleased to hear the confidence President Rousseff has in the Games and what they will deliver, and it was good to hear that the Games and their legacy will be a top priority,” Bach said, according to a press release. “The IOC will contribute $1.5 billion to the Games, which will leave a huge sporting, economic and social legacy.”

Bach will be at the Maracanã Stadium on Sunday to watch Argentina face his native Germany. In 2016, the Maracanã will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in addition to the gold-medal soccer games.

IOC president: ‘Still no time to lose’