ATHENS, Greece (AP) – IOC President Thomas Bach predicted on Wednesday that the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will “overwhelm” the world, despite Brazil’s deep financial crisis.
Bach, visiting Athens for a sporting awards ceremony, described Brazil as being in a “situation of crisis,” but said the country was on course to stage “an Olympic Games with a great joy of life and a great passion for sport.”
Since being awarded the games in 2009, Brazil has suffered a serious financial downturn and is currently grappling with an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus that has caused international health concerns.
Bach did not refer to either crisis specifically.
“It is, as you know, six months before the Olympic Games and it is the most difficult time to prepare for games … There is one or the other minor thing to do, and of course it is the same for other countries, and it is the same for the Brazilians,” Bach said.
“But if you consider the circumstances that our Brazilian friends are working under – with their country which is in a situation of crisis – you can only appreciate the great work they are doing for the Olympic Games, and you can look forward to the opening of the stadium and to be overwhelmed by the passion of our Brazilian hosts.”
On Thursday, Bach is scheduled to visit a refugee camp in Athens. Greece continues to struggle with a serious refugee crisis, fuelled by the civil war in Syria. He will also visit the marble Panathinian Stadium in central Athens, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.
He was joined on his trip to Athens by former IOC President Jacques Rogge, who supervised preparations for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.