Olympic sports leaders praise Rio for getting back on track
SOCHI, Russia (AP) A year after blasting organizers for delays, leaders of summer Olympic sports praised Brazil on Wednesday for getting preparations back on track for next year's games in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio organizers were sharply criticized for severe construction holdups and political wrangling when they appeared before the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations at their meeting in Turkey in April 2015.
On Wednesday, the reception at ASOIF's general assembly in Sochi was markedly different as president Francesco Ricci Bitti said ''the situation is totally changed,'' with venue plans back on schedule.
''Not everything will be perfect, but it is always like that,'' the Italian said. ''I think the games is a huge effort. The progress is significant. I am very optimistic about these games. It will be a special games.''
Ricci Bitti, who heads the International Tennis Federation, said organizers had ''worked very hard'' to rectify problems.
ASOIF's criticism last year pushed the Brazilian government to offer more help to Olympic organizers after providing only ''light support'' previously, Ricci Bitti said.
His comments were echoed by Walter Gagg of FIFA, standing in for the absent president Sepp Blatter. Gagg said last year's World Cup in Brazil, another event which was dogged by delays but passed off relatively successfully, had increased confidence.
''We are very, very happy to come back in 2016 for the Olympics, thank you,'' he said.
Earlier this week, International Fencing Federation president Alisher Usmanov told The Associated Press that ''everything is going according to plan'' in Rio.
''There are no incidents or issues that you have to worry about,'' he said.
Addressing ASOIF, Rio's organizers said that they had received 2 million ticket requests from the Brazilian public with 16 months to go until the games.
They also said the Olympic golf course was now back on track to host a key test event and would be completed in November.
However, other problems remain, most notably polluted outdoor venues. So far this year, there have been mass fish die-offs at the bay to be used for sailing and at the rowing lake, where more than 37 tons of dead fish were removed last week.
Separately Wednesday, ASOIF passed a majority vote agreeing with the revenue distribution plans for the Rio Games, which has track and field's IAAF joined in the top revenue group for the first time by gymnastics and swimming.
The sports split hundreds of millions of dollars generated from television rights and other deals.
The federations voted 23-1 in favor of the split, with handball the only one to oppose. Four federations abstained, including the IAAF. ASOIF also voted 26-1 not to review the revenue groups after the Rio Olympics.