February 26, 2015

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The IOC vice president who called Rio de Janeiro's preparations for the 2016 Olympics the ''worst'' in memory, says almost a year later that much has changed.

John Coates, in Rio for meetings of the International Olympic Committee executive board, said on Thursday he's feeling content about South America's first Olympics.

''A lot of great progress has been made,'' Coates said. ''That's quite clear. I'm a lot more relaxed.''

The Australian gave some of the credit to Gilbert Felli, the former executive director of the Olympics, who has been in Rio as a troubleshooter, helping to coordinate with local organizing committee officials.

Coates said he visited Deodoro, the second largest cluster of venues, in a rundown area of northern Rio.

''The particular concern we had was Deodoro, where work hadn't started,'' he said. ''There's good progress out there now.''

Asked for the most important reason for the progress, Coates replied: ''Maybe the money is starting to flow through. I imagine that was always an issue.''

It still might be.

Brazil is teetering on recession; the value of the local currency has cropped 35 percent against the dollar in recent months, and the government of President Dilma Rousseff has raised taxes and cut some services to make up for any budget shortfall.

Rio is spending about $14 billion on the Olympics, after the country spent $12 billion on last year's World Cup.

However, few question any longer if venues will be ready, although several are behind schedule: The golf course, an equestrian venue, and the velodrome.

There are also concerns over severe water pollution in the sailing venue, a shortage of hotel rooms, and street crime.

It's also unclear if all 44 test events will be held, or be on time.

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Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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