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Mayor wants 2016 to transform Rio’s violent face

LAUSANNE: Rio de Janeiro’s mayor said Friday the Brazilian city wanted to transform its reputation for violent crime and poverty with the 2016 Olympic Games. “We all know Rio faces some violent problems,

we are not worried about this violence problems during the Games, we are worried about that in everyday life,” said mayor Eduardo Paes at a “summit” of past and future Olympic Cities.

“We know that we’re going to deliver fantastic games, safe games, but we want to change the reality of the city before and after the games,” he added.

Paes highlighted plans to boost sports in the city’s poorest areas, regenerate and open up the poverty-stricken northern neighbourhood of Deodoro as a Games centre, and boost English teaching for thousands of schoolchildren. The city’s crime rate was one of the city’s biggest drawbacks in its bid against Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo. Last month, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vowed to give Rio special attention after days of clashes between criminal gangs and police in several slums left 47 people dead and a police helicopter shot down.

Paes said the floodgates suddenly opened up for urban regeneration projects after Rio won the race for 2016, including national funding for the key north-south “Transcarioca” transit route. “Winning really accelerated things,” he acknowledged. The International Olympic Committee signalled that it was pressing cities for proven social and economic spin-offs in the decade after they hold the Olympic Games, both during the bidding process and while hosts prepared for the event. “Today the fact is that the games are so big that a city cannot afford to organise just a sports event,” said IOC’s chief games manager, Gilbert Felli. afp

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