IOC’s Bach says Rio 2016 Olympics will be ‘safe games’
IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday he is confident that the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be a "safe games."
Bach, who spoke in the capital Brasilia after a meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, is inspecting progress on Rio’s games this week with other top officials of the International Olympic Committee.
"We have full confidence these games will be safe games, and that the world will feel very welcome here in Brazil," Bach said, sitting next to Sports Minister George Hilton and Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio games organizing committee.
"We have no doubt about this," Bach added.
His assurances came after five policemen were killed over the weekend in and around Rio.
A recent increase in violent crime could discourage tourists from coming to South America’s first games.
Stray bullets injured about 30 people in Rio in January and caused at least five deaths, including a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
Some of the violence is connected to drug gangs, and moves by security forces to control unpoliced areas in Rio’s favelas, or slums.
Brazil used about 150,000 soldiers and military police for security during last year’s World Cup, a show of force that deterred the widely expected protests.
Bach’s visit has offered embattled Rousseff a lift. Her popularity has plunged since her re-election in October due to a corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras, where investigators say hundreds of millions of dollars have been siphoned off in kickback schemes.
The government has cut services, raised taxes and seen the value of the local currency fall 35 percent in value against the dollar in recent months.
Brazil spent about $12 billion on the World Cup. Olympic spending so far is $14 billion, a mixture of public and private money.
Bach said he invited Rousseff to light the Olympic flame in Greece just before the games.
He also hinted she might run a leg in the torch relay, which will circle Brazil just before the games open on Aug. 5, 2016.
"I hope very much we will be able to welcome her on this really historic moment," Bach said. "And maybe we’ll see her even taking part in the Olympic torch relay."
Bach was asked if Rousseff had accepted the invitation.
"I can say I’m optimistic," he said.