• Papal visit fiascos raise new concern ahead of World Cup, Olympic Games

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    RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil: A series of fiascos during Pope Francis’s visit this week have raised fresh concerns about Brazil’s ability to stage next year’s World Cup and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

    The pontiff’s first overseas trip to join hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims at World Youth Day, a major Catholic festival, has turned into a daily ordeal for Rio authorities.

    “If you ask me to grade the organization of World Youth Day (WYD), I would say we are closer to zero than to 10,” embattled Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes told CBN radio.

    “I am aiming for perfection, but when I cannot achieve it, I don’t blame others and do not shirk my responsibility. Blame it on me, but don’t destroy the image of our city,” he added.

    But, the mayor said, “I give a 10 to WYD, to the pope and the population.”

    The arrival of Pope Francis on Monday was marred by security lapses, as his car was trapped several times by throngs of adoring well-wishers.

    The city‘s transport system has also been overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who sought to reach events on the famed Copacabana beach, sparking traffic chaos.

    And organizers had to move Sunday’s final WYD mass to Copacabana because the original site outside Rio became a mud field after days of rain.

    Workers had toiled for months to build a huge stage in Guaratiba, but the site that was dubbed “the field of faith” will remain empty this weekend.

    The pilgrims, who will hold an all-night vigil from Saturday to Sunday, will instead camp out on Copacabana.

    The succession of woes did not dampen the spirits of Kirki Georgakotoulous, a 57-year-old shopkeeper.

    Bu the daily Estado de Sao Paulo on Thursday said these problems “raise further doubt about (the country’s) capacity to organize major events.

    “The upshot is that Rio failed the test,” said Chris Gaffney, a US academic who studies the urban impact of major sporting events.

    Gaffney said this did not come as a surprise to him, pointing to “structural failings and a lack of professionalism.”

    Gaffney sees public security as the main challenge for the World Cup.

    For the 2016 summer Olympics, the main challenge is the transport system.

    AFP

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