LONDON (Reuters) - Sebastian Coe, the man who helped mastermind the London 2012 Olympics, says Rio de Janeiro will undoubtedly face challenges in the leadup to the 2016 Games but is convinced the event will be a success.
The Brazilian city is hosting the first Games on the South American continent but has come in for criticism for its progress, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president John Coates saying in April that preparations were the worst he had seen and critically behind schedule.
“I think they are doing okay,” Coe told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “We work incredibly closely and they will deliver a very good Games.”
“I know the organising committee really well. No two cities that have delivered and then gone on to deliver a Games have been closer, no two chairmen in organising committees have been closer, no two mayors.
“(London mayor) Boris Johnson and Eduardo Paes in Rio are extremely close. There is a rare week where there isn’t a British delegation in Rio in one form or another,” added Coe who is now chairman of the British Olympic Association and vice-president of the IAAF, the ruling body of athletics.
As with football’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there have been major delays in developing infrastructure and poor communication between the Government and organisers.
Coe said it was unrealistic to expect everything to run smoothly but with up to 80 staff from the now-defunct London organising committee working in Rio, there were plenty of experienced people on the ground.
“It doesn’t really matter where you deliver an Olympic Games, whether it’s in Rio, Sydney, London ... it is the biggest thing any city undertakes,” he added.
“Nobody should be sitting here as a Monday night quarterback thinking that this is easy, it isn’t. It challenges a city like nothing else ever challenges a city,” said Coe.
“Everything is critical, you’re bringing partnerships and people together for an extraordinary cause but don’t ever underestimate how hard this is.”
As part of London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Games, Coe made a commitment to reach out to young people around the world and help inspire them to take part in sport and physical activity.
That grew into the International Inspiration Programme, tasked with reaching and engaging 12 million children in 20 countries as well as influencing policy makers.
A report released on Tuesday said the programme had reached more than 25 million children and in excess of 250,000 teachers, coaches and leaders in countries like India, Britain, Indonesia and Nigeria.
“I’m not surprised but I’m relieved that independently we’ve had our work validated and that’s important,” said Coe, a double Olympic champion and chair of International Inspiration.
“The great thing about these programmes is that you always need to refine, you need to really understand what is working and what isn’t working, what is best practice, what isn’t best practise.
“We are acutely conscious we started off with a relatively modest target of 12 million children in 20 countries by 2012,” added Coe.
“We sort of got to 13 million with a year to go before the opening ceremony and to have got up to 25 million that are either being influenced or engaged in high quality physical education or sporting activity is fantastic.”
The programme has now received funding for another three years from Britain’s Department for International Development.
Editing by Tony Jimenez