Olympic venues nearly ready for TV; big worries elsewhere

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Olympic inspectors are taking their final look this week at Rio de Janeiro's preparations.

The International Olympic Committee team will find most of the venues ready to show off to billions of television viewers when the games open in just under four months.

But trouble lingers behind the cameras.

President Dilma Rousseff is fighting impeachment and could be out of office when the Olympics open Aug. 5. The country's in its worst recession since the 1930s with unemployment at 10 percent. Many Brazilians have more serious worries than South America's first games.

Last week the Greek Olympic Committee said Rousseff would skip the Olympic torch-light ceremony on April 21 in Greece.

Away from politics, the Zika virus and raw sewage in area waters may be scaring away fans and even some athletes, budgets are being cut everywhere including with security, and there are suspicions that corruption has touched some Olympic-related building projects.

Here's a quick look:

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VENUES

Organizers say the venues are 95 percent complete. However, the velodrome and tennis center in the Olympic Park are behind schedule as is the equestrian center in the northern cluster of Deodoro. All should be ready for the games.

Venues for sailing, rowing, canoeing and open-water swimming contain high levels of viruses and, in some cases, bacteria from human sewage. Organizers have repeatedly said the waters are safe. However, a risk assessment based on an Associated Press analysis found that athletes who ingest just three teaspoons of water have a 99 percent chance of being infected by a virus. That does not mean they will automatically become ill.

Athletes will arrive with antibiotics, wetsuits, bleach for paddles and oars and hand sanitizers - and they'll try to limit contact with the dirty water.

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ZIKA VIRUS

Zika may keep some foreign tourists from going to the Olympics and it also poses a risk to young athletes. There's strong evidence the virus is to blame for an increase in birth defects and doctors fear pregnant women sickened by the virus might give birth to babies with abnormally small heads.

The World Health Organization has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to areas with Zika outbreaks, and Brazil is at the epicenter. Scientists have also noted that Zika can be sometimes spread through sexual transmission. WHO recommends taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites, including the use of repellent and wearing trousers and long sleeves.

Rio organizers say they are draining stagnant water at venues where mosquitoes could breed and are relying on cool, dry weather in the South American winter when the games open.

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TEPID TICKET SALES

Only 50 percent of 3.5 million tickets allocated for Brazilians have been sold. International sales are also reported to be lukewarm. Paralympic sales are worse. New Sports Minister Ricardo Leyser has promised to boost sales and avoid an embarrassment with television showing banks of empty seats.

Rio officials hope this week's draw for the Olympic soccer tournament will boost sales. They argue Brazilians are not accustomed to buying tickets in advance.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes broke a promise to buy 1.2 million Olympic tickets and distribute them free to schools and poor children.

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SUBWAY LINE EXTENSION

Officials say the line will be finished just days before the games open but no one seems sure. The extension links the Ipanema and Copacabana areas to the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca, site of the Olympic Park. Without it, travel will be harrowing. Even if it's running, some stations will be closed. Work on a Plan B using buses has been reported. The subway is the largest project tied to the Olympics.

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SECURITY

Brazil will deploy about 85,000 soldiers and police for the games. No one doubts the Army's capabilities but questions are being raised about the police force run by the state of Rio de Janeiro. Last month the head of that force, Jose Mariano Beltrame, said his budget had been cut by 2 billion reals - about $550 million - a reduction sure to impact Olympic security.

Justice Minister Eugenio Aragao promised last week Brazil will be ready.

''We have to be prepared,'' he said. ''This is the Brazilian government's job.''

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BUDGET CUTS

Rio organizers have trimmed about $500 million to keep their operating budget balanced. Cuts will impact almost everything behind the television cameras: food service, reduced seating in venues, bus schedules, resources for the opening and closing ceremonies. One proposed cut would have had athletes pay to have air conditioning in their rooms at the Athletes Village. That ended with the Zika virus. Athletes will have air conditioning and will be told to close their bedroom windows to keep out mosquitoes.

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CORRUPTION

Some of the construction companies in the Olympic projects are also embroiled in a $3 billion bribery case at the state-run oil company Petrobras. The Brazilian construction behemoth Odebrecht is involved in many Olympic venues and other construction to prepare the city. Company CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was recently sentenced to 19 years in jail for corruption connected to the Petrobras scandal.

Rio de Janeiro city councilman Jefferson Moura has asked for an inquiry into the contracts while federal police involved in the Petrobras probe are also looking at Olympic contracts.

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AP writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

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Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade

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