Rio's mayor is back; prepares for flag handover to Tokyo
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes is back.
The face of the Rio Olympics, Paes has shied away from the cameras since the opening ceremony. But he was back in view on Friday, bowing to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who arrived wearing a white kimono for a meeting with her Rio counterpart.
Paes will hand over the Olympic flag to Kioke at Sunday's closing ceremony, the moment eyes turn from South America to Asia, where the next three Winter and Summer Olympics will be held.
Paes repeated his spirited defense of holding the Rio Games, saying the Olympics had been a catalyst for building a new subway-line extension, an express-bus system and a renovated port area. He cited a mix or private and public money to stage the games, arguing they were reasonably priced and would leave ''no white elephants.''
''I think it's an amazing legacy for Rio that people will have for many years,'' Paes said.
Credited by the International Olympic Committee for pushing preparations, Paes has often tried to lower expectations about Rio's Olympics, which have been plagued by empty seats and organization problems.
He did it again with Koike, saying Tokyo is a ''much more developed city than Rio.''
''If you want to be fair to Rio, you cannot compare us to Tokyo, to Chicago to Madrid,'' Paes said, citing cities that were beaten out by Rio in 2009 when the IOC chose its 2016 host. ''These are cities that have much better infrastructure. They come from developed countries. You have to compare Rio to Rio.''
Paes said the shift to Tokyo should please the IOC, which is coming off difficult games in Sochi, Russia, and Rio de Janeiro.
''We come from a tropical experience, the Latin ways of Brazil, which sometimes made the IOC members a little bit crazy,'' Paes said.
Paes also noted Koike's kimono, a traditional garment that is used for important ceremonial moments.
''The great Japanese hospitality is represented by the kimono,'' Kioke explained. ''That's why I'm wearing one.''
Paes replied: ''The next time I meet her in Tokyo, I'm going to wear a kimono,'' he said. ''I love it.''
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP .His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade