Corruption investigations, political turmoil have threatened the Summer Olympics
Meanwhile, athletes have been worried about competing with raw sewage in Rio
The mayor of the host city for the 2016 Olympics says he welcomes an investigation by federal prosecutors into possible corruption involving construction projects for the upcoming Games.
“That’s good that they’re investigating,” Mayor Eduardo Paes told CNN, a day after reports emerged of the investigation. He added that he was not worried about the discovery of any possible malfeasance.
“No bribes, no corruption. You can see everything’s delivered on time and on price.”
Paes was responding to a Reuters report that an investigation by Brazilian officials has expanded to all Olympic venues paid for by government funds.
Brazil is in the midst of a series of groundbreaking corruption investigations that have implicated major figures in the private sector as well as top politicians.
The investigation of Olympic construction projects will be part of a larger probe that has been looking at large-scale, so-called “legacy” undertakings that have been aimed at improving infrastructure in this vibrant port city.
Sewage plant answers athletes’ concerns
Paes made his comments Thursday at an event to mark the opening of a new sewage treatment plant in the western part of the city, where equestrian events, rugby and combined running and shooting events in the modern pentathlon will be held.
City Hall says the new plant will serve some 430,000 residents in what Paes describes as one of the poorest parts of the city.
Rio has long struggled with terrible sanitation problems. Raw sewage has often spilled from this port city and its greater metropolitan surroundings – home to a combined population of more than 11 million people – directly into the sea.
Some Olympic athletes, particularly from the sailing events, have raised concerns about the possibility of contracting diseases in Rio’s heavily polluted Guanabara Bay.
Last year, Erik Heil, a member of the German Olympic sailing team, said he contracted multiple infections after racing in the Olympic test event in August 2015.
“Multiple infections to both his legs and to his hip have forced Heil to undergo urgent treatment by doctors,” the German Olympic sailing team announced at the time.
“Untreated sewage is allowed to flow into the Bay,” Heil said in a statement released on the team’s official website in 2015. He called for athletes to wear protective plastic and for a doctor to accompany the team during the Olympics in case of additional illnesses.
On Thursday, Paes, the Rio mayor, said the bay would be safe for athletes “because where … the sailing is going to happen, it’s the cleanest area of Gaunabara Bay.”
There have also been concerns voiced by athletes and international health officials about the Zika virus, which is present in Brazil.
Political turmoil and the Games
Paes said this has been a particularly complicated period for the country in the final months before the Olympic Games, which open in August. Brazil is struggling with its worst economic recession in generations as well as a political crisis involving the suspension of President Dilma Rousseff due to impeachment proceedings earlier this month.
Asked which head of state would be standing with him during the Olympics, Paes laughed, saying “I don’t know. I think it’s President Temer.”
Former Vice President Michel Temer is now serving as the country’s interim president.