Rio Mayor says no sports ‘mausoleum’ like Beijing

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes is viewed as the key person to speed up the city’s delayed Olympics Games preparations. He has been the point man when all three levels of Brazilian government have debated expenditures for the 2016 Games.

He’s also not afraid to speak out of turn.

In trying to reassure Brazilian voters that the country is not overspending on the Olympics, he compared Brazil favorably to China and the 2008 Beijing Games.

He mocked China’s spending on the Beijing Olympics and the white elephants it left behind, notably the award-winning National Stadium nicknamed the Bird’s Nest.

”I’m not going to build an eagle, an eagle’s nest,” Paes said. ”What’s that thing called? Fish nest? Fish, eagle? Bird’s Nest. We’re not going to build a Bird’s Nest in Rio de Janeiro. If you go to Beijing today, the Bird’s Nest has become a mausoleum to honor wasted public money. We are not going to do this here.”

Here are five things to know about Rio’s spending for the 2016 Olympics after the final budget – one of three – was rolled out on Wednesday.

MONEY, BUT NOT FOR THE OLYMPICS: Brazilian government officials are trying to persuade the public that almost $11 billion (24.1 billion Brazilian reals) of spending on infrastructure projects – announced on Wednesday – is not linked to the Olympics. Government officials say 27 urban development and transport projects would have been built anyway – without the impetus of the Olympics. However, when the city’s bid was accepted in 2009, it said the games would drive new roads, rail lines and so forth. The announcement on Wednesday was made with top Olympic officials in the audience – including Rio organizing committee president Carlos Nuzman. But he did not speak. So why did he attend if this had nothing to do with the Olympics?

TWO OTHER BUDGETS: Two other budgets are acknowledged to be for the Olympics. The Rio Olympic organizing committee in January said its operating budget would be $3.1 billion (7 billion reals). This is the money for operating the games themselves. Income is from the International Olympic Committee, and from marketing, tickets sales and local sponsorship sales. A third budget was also announced in January: $2.5 billion (5.6 billion reals) to build about half of all the infrastructure projects needed specifically for the games. This number will rise and is to be updated every six months.

THE POLITICAL ELEMENT: Brazil President Dilma Rousseff is up for re-election in October, and the government is trying to be seen to be keeping down spending on mega-sports events. The upcoming World Cup is costing about $11 billion. Protests are expected at the World Cup, centered on lavish sports spending in a country with poorly funded schools and hospitals. Similar protests last year in the Confederations Cup took place at nearly every match and drew global attention.

GILBERT FELLI: Last week the IOC said Felli, its executive director of the Olympic Games, would be in Rio this week to serve as a point man to speed up work on the games. However, Rio organizers said on Thursday he will not arrive until next week. Another delayed. Felli will take charge ahead of Paes, Nuzman and CEO Sidney Levy, and Paes welcomes him: ”We see his presence here as a very good thing. It will be a pleasure and I will give him all the information.”

IT ALL MUST BE PAID FOR: Allison Stewart was the co-author of a recent study by Said Business School at Oxford University in England on Olympic spending. The study showed all Olympic Games since 1960 had cost overruns. ”In the end it all has to be paid for, no matter which turtleshell you put it under,” Stewart said in an interview with The Associated Press. Stewart said Olympic budgets are always confusing and can be juggled. And it’s good to remember that host cities and countries pay for any overrun – not the IOC. ”People don’t understand all these different budgets,” she said. ”The movement between different budgets is by far the most problematic. It’s the least transparent, and that’s a real problem. It’s taxpayers’ money being spent. There is some private money, but it’s by far the least bit in terms of the revenue that goes into to it.”

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