With less than three years to go before the first Olympic Games in South America, most of the facilities in Rio have yet to be completed because of construction delays and soaring costs.
Earlier this year, millions of Brazilians took to the streets to protest against the billions of dollars being invested into staging the 2014 football World Cup then the Olympics instead of health, education, public transportation, and security.
Carlos Nuzman, the president of the Rio 2016 Olympics Committee, addressed the International Olympic Committee on Sunday to allay fears that things were off track.
He conceded things had fallen behind but said he was confident everything would be ready for 2016 and on budget.
“We have made significant progress,” Nuzman said. “I can assure you Rio will be ready.
“There is a lot of work ahead but we fully understand the complexity of our task.”
Nuzman’s admission came just a week after an IOC co-ordination commission visited Rio before heading to Argentina for the IOC Congress.
The commission was led by Nawal El Moutawakel, who won a gold medal for Morocco in the women’s 400 metres hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
El Moutawakel told the IOC Congress on Sunday that Rio had made “reassuring” progress in the last year but there was still a lot of work to do.
“Over recent months, the social and political environment and operations has significantly changed,” she said.
“There is a need, more than ever before, that all stakeholders need to work together.
“Key decisions need to be made collectively and communicated with one voice.”
She urged the Rio organising team to focus on getting the venues and infrastructure right as well as taking the “matrix of responsibility” and would return to Brazil next year to see how things were progressing.
“We remain confident Rio and Brazil have the resources and the energy and ambition to deliver a memorable Olympic Games in 2016.”
Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper, who also serves as chairman of the IOC press commission, told Nuzman that Rio needed to get their media operations in order, including better communication with the Brazilian public to reassure them about the Games and end the protests.
“I’m still concerned with the delay related to your press operations. It took you three and a half years to appoint a media chief,” Gosper said.
“You simply have to keep your public aware about what’s happening.
“If the community doesn’t get it, you’ll have a repeat of what you’ve had (protests).”
Nuzman, a lawyer who represented Brazil in volleyball at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, said the Rio organisers were aware of the growing discontent and he vowed they would do a better job getting their messages across.
“We have a free country, we have a democracy in every sense and everybody can express their opinion,” he said.
“It’s important to take in consideration any protest concerning the World Cup and the Olympic Games.
“The population loves sport… but we need to be much more transparent and open to communicate to everybody what’s happening.”
(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Alison Wildey)