Rio Olympic track stadium goes dark due to unpaid bills

Author: the associated press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – The track and field stadium for this year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics was without power Monday with the city hall and Rio soccer club Botafogo blaming each other for unpaid utility bills.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the city hall said Botafogo has been responsible for the utility bills since May 2015.

But the club told the AP in a statement that the city government owed it money to pay water and electricity bills.

“We have to find out who is responsible for the debt,” the club said.

The Brazilian website Globo Esporte, which is connected to the newspaper O Globo, said the unpaid bills totaled 1 million reals ($250,000). It reported electricity has been off since last week and said water was cut more than a month ago.

The website said two months of payments were in arrears.

Brazil is in the middle of a deep recession, forcing cutbacks to Olympic preparations. Organizers are trying to chop about $500 million in expenditures to keep the operating budget at $1.9 billion.

The cuts are reaching all aspects of the games, including reducing the use of unpaid volunteers. The volunteers receive uniforms, meals on the days they work and transportation to venues. They must pay their own housing costs.

The Rio organizing committee said Monday it expected the stadium to be ready to host a test event in May, but referred questions to the club and city hall.

The stadium will be the venue for track and field, and for group-stage soccer matches.

The stadium on the north side of Rio was closed in 2013 to repair a sagging roof that was in danger of collapsing. It was reopened last year, and plans are afoot to install the running track for the Olympics in the next few months.

The games open Aug. 5.

The stadium was opened in 2007 for the Pan American Games and named for Joao Havelange, the disgraced former head of soccer’s world governing body FIFA. Havelange’s name was recently removed and replaced with Nilton Santos, a former star of the Botafogo club.

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