Tuesday February 24th, 2015

A variety of legacy projects Rio de Janeiro has planned ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics are either behind schedule or in question altogether, reports USA Today.

The most prominent seems to be the cleanup of the Guanabara Bay, which lines the eastern border of the city and will host Olympic sailing for the 2016 Games. Aside from the powerful odor it omits, the bay is "also the final destination for the lion's share of the sewage produced by the 12 million" residents of Rio, USA Today says.

Rio had promised in 2009 when it won the Olympic bid to clean up 80 percent of the sewage in the bay. But like several key infrastructure promises pegged to the Games, this one has been subject to backpedaling and lowered expectations from officials as the Olympics get closer.

"Of course I'd like for everything to be ready for the Olympics, but what I want is a legacy for the local population," Rio de Janeiro Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão recently told reporters when asked about the city's sewage goal. "I won't be frustrated" if that percentage isn't reached by the Games, the governor added.

Other legacy projects planned by Rio include a new metro line and an urban housing upgrading program. The metro has struggled through various construction problems, including a "serious setback" last May when craters appeared in a street as workers drilled new tunnels.

The line had been expected to open in the "first semester" of 2016, but July 2016 was recently announced as the expected opening date.

The housing project, which would upgrade low-income housing settlements called favelas that an estimated one in five Rio residents live within, has essentially seen its progress halted.

"They didn't get to the actual project phase," Cavalcanti said of the first firms who carried out diagnostics of the communities and awaited their green light to go forward. Contracts were either never made or cancelled with little explanation, leaving the firms' staffs, favela residents and housing activists asking what had happened to the city's grand plan. The Rio de Janeiro city government did not respond to requests for comment about the fate of the program.

The legacy projects consume the largest share of Rio's 37.7 billion reais (about $13.7 billion) budget for the Olympics at 24.1 billion reais ($8.8 billion).

The opening ceremony for the Rio Games is scheduled for Aug. 5, 2016 and the closing ceremony is slated for Aug. 21.

Mike Fiammetta

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