SPORTS

Brazilians blame Athens

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Rio de Janeiro’s elimination from the race for the 2012 Olympics was a «monstrous surprise» and could be a knock-on effect of the struggle to get Athens ready for this year’s Games, officials said yesterday. Sports Minister Agnelo Queiroz labeled the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision political, while the city was left to reflect on whether its soaring crime rate was a decisive factor in its failure to make the short list of five candidates. Paris, New York, Moscow, London and Madrid have been accepted as candidates. But officials did not appear to believe the possibility of Brazil staging the 2014 soccer World Cup was an influence. The Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) expected better luck this time after Rio failed to make the short list in bidding for the 2004 Games, while Brasilia pulled out of the race to host the 2000 Olympics before the final vote. «This was a monstrous surprise for us. It wasn’t just a bucket of cold water, it was a complete shower,» said COB technical director Marcus Vinicius Freire. «Brazil had a very well-designed project and we didn’t expect this at all.» COB president Carlos Nuzman said: «Maybe the delays in Athens could have hurt the candidature of an emerging nation. It’s a surprise and disappointment,» he told Brazilian television from Lausanne. «It was one of the best projects; all the specialized (web)sites had Rio as one of the top four.» Nuzman said he expected the 2012 Games to be in Europe, which would open the way for South America to host its first Olympics four years later. «I’m announcing that Brazil has to present a candidature for 2016,» he added. Nuzman refused to blame security for Rio’s failure but Mayor Cesar Maia, who canceled a news conference due to be held shortly after the announcement in Switzerland, later released a statement admitting it was a weak point. «We have to be self-critical and recognize that the matter of security continues to be our Achilles heel,» said Maia, who media officials said was too unhappy to give a news conference. Rio’s crime problem was in the spotlight a month ago after at least 12 people died after rival drug gangs battled for five days to take control of Rocinha, one of the city’s largest slums. Queiroz, meanwhile, blamed IOC politics. «We receive this news with great sadness because we consider this was a political decision,» he said in a statement. «The whole of Brazil was getting involved to stage a beautiful event in 2012. Rio’s report was a very high level. South America, which has never hosted the Olympics, missed out again. It’s a shame because Brazil and South America are legitimate hosts for the Olympic Games. The question of security may have carried some weight but it was not fundamental. Cities with much more serious problems than Rio de Janeiro are still in the race.»