Rio Organizers Admit to ‘Dropping The Ball' on Olympic Planning

With five days remaining of the games, organizers are still talking about it being a "learning curve" getting Brazilians to fall in love with the Olympics

Once the self-styled "Olympic family" started grumbling, Rio de Janeiro organizers knew they had to make rapid improvements.

"You need to provide good service," Rio Games spokesman Mario Andrada said Tuesday. "And we were kind of dropping the ball a little bit in the beginning."

International Olympic Committee executives and guests didn't like being made to wait around for transportation. Even a minute.

"Some routes were not very well organized," Andrada said. "They stay in a Brazil for a short period of time. They want to go wherever they need to go quickly."

Out went the volunteers, many of whom weren't turning up; in came more professional, paid drivers to ferry Olympic figures around Rio. And the transport complaints largely stopped, at least among non-journalists.

It's not hard to find people complaining at these financially and logistically troubled Olympics.

Television stations paying fortunes to air sporting actions want full stadiums as the backdrop. Swathes of empty seats tell a different story, reflecting apathy amid high costs of tickets by local standards.

With five days remaining of the games, organizers are still talking about it being a "learning curve" getting Brazilians to fall in love with the Olympics.

"When you have a full venue you are offering a better product to broadcasters and to fans far away," Andrada said. "So we need to work in that direction. I think it's on the priority list.

"We discuss this and work on this every single day. We are making progress and as we approach the final more seats will be filled ... because we know we need to offer a better product, a better view for the broadcasters."

Even when the fans turn up, their conduct isn't to the liking of organizers or some competitors.

As Renaud Lavillenie was deposed as Olympic champion by home favorite Thiago Braz da Silva, the French pole vaulter was booed on Monday. "If you get no respect in the Olympics, where can you get respect?" Lavillenie complained.

"In many ways it should not be done that way; in many ways it's understandable," Andrada responded at the organizers' daily media briefing. "The public couldn't believe a gold medal is in sight (for Braz da Silva). They reacted in a very ordinary and normal way from some perspective but we cannot afford (that) an athlete feels booing interferes with his or her performance."

There were also updates on other issues to beset the games:

— All the people injured when an elevated television camera plummeted more than 60 feet to the ground Monday in the Olympic park have been released from hospital.

— Signs and backdrops at the mountain bike course are being replaced after being damaged by a brush fire.

— Rio de Janeiro police are investigating a Bulgarian athlete who was accused of beating up housekeepers at the Olympic Village. A housekeeper told police that the unnamed Bulgarian came out of his room when she and others arrived to clean it and hit her before attacking the others. Two boxers have been accused of sexually assaulting housekeepers and arrested since the Olympics began on Aug. 5.

"We are taking measures to inform the athletes of the best behavior," Andrada said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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