The International Olympic Committee is getting nervous about the samba-style pace of preparations for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, given the massive amount of construction still to be done while the country is also getting ready to host the 2014 soccer World Cup.
“Our message remains: there is time but time is ticking and they need to carry on attacking this one with all vigor,” spokesman Mark Adams said after the organizers recently briefed the IOC’s executive board.
Even though the city built nearly half of the necessary venues for the 2007 Pan American Games there’s plenty more to do. Construction didn’t begin until last summer on the Olympic Park, the “heart of the Games” that will stage more than half of the sports. The To-Do list also includes significant urban renewal, most notably a renovated waterfront and expanded transportation system.
All this amid a stalled Brazilian economy and a new organizing committee CEO taking over next month. Though mayor Eduardo Paes promised that all of the venues would be completed a year in advance, it may well be a race to the finish as it was in Athens in 2004. As always, the Brazilians are tranquil.
“We are in a very good, comfortable situation,” insisted committee chief Carlos Nuzman.
More Athens falloutThe Athens Games, which already were the most doped in history, got even dirtier recently when the IOC stripped four field event medalists of their medals when their original samples came up positive for steroids during a re-test. Bounced from the podium were men’s shot put champion Yuri Bilonog of Ukraine, hammer runner-up Ivan Tskikhan of Belarus and the women’s bronze medalists in the shot (Svetlana Krivelyova of Russia) and discus (Irina Yatchenko) of Belarus. That brings the total of cheaters to 31, 11 of them medalists, including three champions. The biggest beneficiary is Dartmouth grad Adam Nelson, who stands to inherit Bilonog’s gold, Nelson, now retired, won silver in Sydney and Athens before missing the podium in Beijing and missing the team for London . . . Lance Armstrong’s medal limbo will last only as long as it takes the international cycling federation to make the obvious (but not guaranteed) decision to strip him of his results based on the US Anti-Doping case against him. Since the eight-year statute of limitations has expired on the 2000 Sydney Games where Armstrong won the time trial bronze, the IOC would have to revoke his medal based on subsequent action by the UCI. There’s no doubt, though, that the Lords of the Rings will do it unless Armstrong wins an appeal . . . While it’s likely the ban will be lifted well before the next Summer Games, India’s suspension by the IOC is a serious penalty for defying the Olympic charter in its election procedures for the national committee. The sanction, which the IOC has applied to the likes of Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, means the country gets no IOC funding, can’t send representatives to IOC events, and can’t have its athletes march under their nation’s flag in the opening ceremonies.
Dominating performance The Japanese figure skaters dominated last weekend’s Grand Prix final in Sochi with Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu going 1-2 in the men’s event ahead of Canadian two-time defending champion Patrick Chan and Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki sandwiching Ashley Wagner (who fell twice) on the women’s podium. It was the first time Japanese men, who qualified four of the six competitors, had won the title and the first time that the women had managed it since Asada won in 2008. Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their fourth straight dancing crown ahead of Canadian archrivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Christina Gao, the Harvard freshman who trains at the Skating Club of Boston, finished sixth in the women’s event after getting a late invite when Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia withdrew . . . “Queen Yu Na” Kim of South Korea, who’d taken 19 months off from global skating, is looking to reclaim her throne. Kim, who won gold in Vancouver, easily qualified for next year’s championships in Ontario after winning a second-level event in Dortmund, Germany, last weekend. Kim, who took the 2009 title in Los Angeles, finished second the next two years before taking her sabbatical . . . Rough re-entry for Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir, whose post-Olympic comebacks have been derailed by injuries. Lysacek, who hopes to defend his men’s title in Sochi, had surgery last month after tearing an abdominal muscle and Weir is calling it a season after injuring his hip at last month’s Grand Prix event in Moscow. On the mend, too, is pairs skater John Coughlin, who’s recovering from hip surgery after tearing a labrum. If he and partner Caydee Denney can’t defend their crown at next month’s US championships in Omaha, a new pairs champion will be crowned for an unprecedented fifth straight year.
Need for speedIf Lindsey Vonn wants to overtake World Cup Alpine leader Tina Maze (she’s 263 points behind in third), she’ll have to sweep this weekend’s downhill and Super G at Val d’Isere, France. “I have got to win every speed race,” acknowledges the four-time overall titlist, who’s 4 for 4 in them this season but still is feeling the effects of her earlier intestinal ailment. “I was just dead,” she reported after finishing 27th in last weekend’s giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, after winning the Super G on a shortened course a day earlier. “Two-run races are really hard for me right now.” Ted Ligety, a two-race specialist in the slaloms, is sitting second behind Norwegian leader Aksel Lund Svindal thanks to his 100 Super G points but stands to lose ground to Svindal at this weekend’s speed races in Val Gardena, Italy, before his next GS chance at Alta Badia Sunday . . . Kikkan Randall has been kickin’ it on the women’s World Cup cross-country skiing circuit, sitting second behind Norwegian leader Marit Bjoergen after winning last weekend’s sprint in Quebec, her third medal finish. Randall, who also helped her relay mates make their first-ever podium, gets another sprint shot next weekend at Canmore . . . After winning her second gold at last weekend’s World Cup speedskating meet in Nagano, Heather Richardson is sitting atop the women’s 1,000-meter standings and is second to South Korea’s Lee Sang Hwa in the 500 entering next weekend’s sprint races in Harbin, China.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.