By Karolos Grohmann
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The troubled preparations for the Rio Olympics proved that the model for the Games could withstand the toughest challenges but the IOC hoped it would not have to face such a stress test again, president Thomas Bach said on Thursday.
Speaking on the eve of the opening ceremony, Bach said organizers and the International Olympic Committee had braved and survived Brazil’s economic meltdown and political turmoil.
“If this financial model of the Olympic Games withstands a stress test like in Brazil then you can see that this model is more than robust,” Bach told reporters. “The crisis the country is in is maybe the worst crisis in the history of Brazil.
“These were not always easy times, not even now. Therefore I think we can say very clearly the financial model of the Games has really stood a stress test which I hope we will not have to withstand in the future again.”
When Rio was awarded the Olympics in 2009 the country was enjoying a financial boom with near double-digit annual growth.
Yet only a few years later organizers had run out of cash and the state of Rio had suffered a financial catastrophe as the country slipped into its worst recession since the 1930s.
The IOC then had to pay out part of its financial contribution to the organizers in advance so they could complete preparations that were running dangerously late.
On a political level President Dilma Rousseff was suspended pending an impeachment trial for corruption with interim President Michel Temer taking over just months before the country hosted the biggest multi-sports event in the world.
Instead of basking in the glory of successfully organizing the first Olympics in South America, organizers were struggling to get the event ready in time.
“There were huge, huge challenges,” Bach said. “Nevertheless you see this country… has managed to transform a city and put the Olympic Games on the stage.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)