RIO DE JANEIRO: Rio state officials on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) insisted that the city’s metro system — crucial to moving huge crowds during the Olympics this August — would be done on time, after its mayor voiced doubts.
“We are working carefully and on schedule. The expansion work is moving forward and progress is made every day. We will be in a position to deliver the project in July,” said Rio de Janeiro state Transportation director Carlos Osorio, in a statement.
There are still 200 meters of rock to be excavated on Metro Line 4, “the biggest urban infrastructure project now under way in Brazil, it added.
Earlier, daily O Globo published what it said was an email sent Friday from Mayor Eduardo Paes to the International Olympic Committee in which he described “a high level risk” that the vital infrastructure project will not make the deadline.
With less than six months until Rio hosts South America’s first Summer Olympics, the metro line 4, which would link the Olympic Park and Village in the western Barra district to the city center, is the biggest challenge facing the authorities.
In what Globo said was Paes’ email, the mayor calls for an “emergency meeting” and says that an alternative transport plan needs immediate thought.
“I really think we should start studying now and put it to the IOC’s consideration,” Paes is quoted as saying in the email.
The alternative would be a system of dedicated lanes for express buses, O Globo said.
Currently, travel between the principal Olympic hub in Barra and the rest of the city requires nightmarish road journeys of up to two hours. The metro line would reduce that trip to as little as 13 minutes.
With the project also touted as one of the city’s main lasting Olympic legacies, any change in plan would not just risk travel chaos, but be a huge embarrassment.
A spokeswoman for the mayor refused to confirm the contents of the published email, but did not deny that it was genuine. “No one will comment on those internal communications,” Claudia Lopes told AFP.
She said Paes “has confidence in the state. The work is going on.”