Olympics are competing against major obstacles

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Olympics are competing against major obstacles

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - The president is facing impeachment proceedings. The economy is in free fall. The country is reeling from a wide-ranging corruption scandal.

Such is the grim backdrop in Brazil as organizers of next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro prepare to make their latest progress report to the IOC. With eight months until the opening ceremony, the final stretch of Olympic preparations is taking place amid political and financial turmoil in Brazil.

The nation’s worst recession since the 1930s is already having an impact on the games: The organizing committee budget is being slashed leading to cuts in services - including discussions about whether the athletes will have free air conditioning in their rooms.

Rio organizers are traveling to Lausanne for this week’s three-day meeting of the International Olympic Committee executive board, which started yesterday.

While concerns over construction delays in Rio have eased over the past year, organizing committee chief Carlos Nuzman will be under pressure to reassure the IOC that the economic and political crises won’t derail planning for South America’s first Olympics, which open on Aug. 5, 2016.

When Rio was awarded the games seven years ago, Brazil was riding high as an emerging giant with a booming economy. Now, Latin America’s largest economy is sinking - the real has lost a third of its value this year, gross domestic product has tumbled, inflation is nearing 10 percent and unemployment has soared to nearly 8 percent.

The downturn comes with Brazil mired in a massive kickback scandal centered on Petrobras, the giant state-run oil company.

Meanwhile, impeachment proceedings were launched last week against President Dilma Rousseff, whose approval ratings have sunk to around 10 percent. ?.?

Rio organizers are trying to cut 2 billion reals ($530 million), or almost 30 percent, from their operating budget of 7.4 billion reals ($1.9 billion). Rio officials say most of the cuts involve “behind-the-scenes” facilities.?

At one point last week, organizers said athletes would have to pay for air conditioning in the Olympic Village because of the cuts. A few days later, however, organizers said they would provide free air conditioning after all. AP

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