Thomas Bach convenes IOC executive board to review Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang preparations
IOC President Thomas Bach convened his executive board Friday to review the tight deadlines still facing the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the financial troubles surrounding the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
The two-day board meeting in Monaco comes ahead of a two-day session of the full IOC that will vote on Bach's 40-point reform program, including changes to the bidding process and sports program and creation of an Olympic television channel.
Topping the agenda Friday was a progress report from Brazilian organizers on 2016 preparations, which reached a crisis stage in May when sports federations and the IOC voiced concerns that the games were at risk because of chronic delays.
The IOC introduced special measures for Rio, including assigning veteran administrator Gilbert Felli to work with organizers in Brazil. While the situation has improved, the IOC and sports bodies still warn there is no time to lose and much work to be done.
"Timelines remain tight for the construction of the venues," the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations said this week. "Progress with operational planning and implementation must increasingly be the priority as we are now well inside the 'two years to go' marker."
Concerns remain over pollution in the Rio bay that will host the sailing events and the legal wrangling over the construction of the golf course.
The IOC board is also expected to review the proposed competition schedule for the Rio Games, including swimming finals starting at 10 p.m. local time and some beach volleyball matches beginning at midnight — times that would fit well for NBC's broadcasts in the United States. Rio will be one hour ahead of U.S. eastern time during the games.
In South Korea, meanwhile, a dispute over construction costs has raised worries about the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Provincial and county councils recently issued a joint statement threatening to give up the rights to host the Olympics if the central government doesn't commit to more financial support.
The government has offered to pay half of the 66.2 billion won ($60 million) cost for building a new stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies, Gangwon province councilman Lee Ki-chan said Thursday.
However, he said Seoul must increase its share to 75 percent or higher, otherwise the Olympics risk financially crippling the province.
Gangwon province, which governs Pyeongchang, has been struggling with debt as it builds Olympic facilities. The national Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism expects the total cost of the Olympics to exceed 11 trillion won ($10 billion).
Cutting the bidding and hosting costs of the Olympics is a centerpiece of Bach's "Olympic Agenda 2020," the reform program that will be put to a vote by the 100-plus IOC members on Monday and Tuesday.
The IOC is trying to make the Olympics more attractive and less expensive at a time when many Western European countries are scared away by the costs. After a series of withdrawals, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, are the only two bidders left in the race for the 2022 Winter Games.
Under Bach's plans, the IOC will introduce an "assistance phase" where cities discuss their bid plans with the committee to tailor the games to suit their own needs.
The reforms also include scrapping the current limit of 28 sports in the Summer Games and moving from a sports-based to a more flexible "event-based" program. The new system could clear the way for baseball and softball — dropped after the 2008 Beijing Games — to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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