Coe: Rio to be 'fantastic' and also a 'challenge'

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Sebastian Coe has several messages for Carlos Nuzman, his counterpart heading up the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Visiting Olympic construction sites Tuesday, the head of the 2012 London Olympics warned that the games will draw lots of attention - some of it unwanted.

And even the best organized Olympics like London or Beijing in 2008 require last-minute work. Rio has already been criticized for delays with questions about costs, legacy and planning.

''We were still mowing lawns in the Olympic village the day before the opening ceremony,'' Coe said. ''These will be fantastic games, but don't be surprised that this is a challenge.''

Nuzman and Rio organizers have been under pressure to speed construction. They've acknowledged getting off to a late start after being awarded the games in 2009, and have yet to present an operating budget - the budget to operate the game themselves.

The original bid document called for an operating budget of $2.8 billion, but the number is expected to rise to $3.5 billion to $4 billion.

Nuzman has taken much of the criticism.

Brazilian media have questioned why he's both the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and the head of the local organizing committee. They have also wondered about his long tenure at the head of the BOC.

Last month at an IOC meeting in Buenos Aires, Nuzman was sharply questioned about preparations by fellow IOC member Kevan Gosper of Australia.

''He asked to have more communication, and we agreed,'' Nuzman said.

Asked Tuesday if preparations were on schedule, Nuzman replied: ''Yes.''

He said former IOC President Jacques Rogge tacitly approved that he handle both positions - unprecedented in recent Olympics.

''The day after we won to host the Olympic Games, I met with the IOC presidentand asked him what was his opinion about keeping both hats or not,'' Nuzman said.

Coe, who is friendly with Nuzman, said the most important lesson from London was explaining to local citizens how money is being spent, and on what.

In Rio and all across Brazil, spending on next year's World Cup and the Olympics has been among many issues that sparked violent street protests four months ago during the Confederation Cup, a warmup for next year's World Cup.

The protests have continued across the country, much of it centering on Brazil's high taxes, soaring costs, and poor schools and hospitals.

FIFA, which runs the World Cup, has acknowledged protests may happen. The IOC has said it has reached out to experts in Britain and Australia to help train Brazilian police.

''The most sophisticated stakeholders you have are local people,'' Coe said. ''You do need to explain to them all the time what you are doing, why you're doing it, where you're doing it and what are the benefits. You can never do that enough.''

Coe described the athletes' village, which is to be handed over to organizers in March 2016, as ''very, very impressive'' and said problems facing Rio were similar to those faced in London.

''You're never going to walk through this without groups of people occasionally using the games - the extraordinary penetration that the brand has around the world - as a backdrop to all sorts of issues,'' Coe said.

Asked if he wanted to step in for Nuzman, Coe replied: ''I'm rather happy that Carlos is doing this now and not me.''


Follow Stephen Wade at http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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