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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Mayor Eduardo Paes said Wednesday he was confident in security arrangements for next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a day after a cyclist was stabbed to death near the main venue for rowing and canoeing at South America's first games.
The cyclist was identified by police as 55-year-old Jaime Gold, who was stabbed in the early evening Tuesday while cycling near the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the most upscale neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.
"This is not an issue about the Olympics," Paes said. "It's an issue about us Cariocas (Rio residents) and the way we conduct our lives."
Paes spoke at Rio's Olympic headquarters after meeting with top members of the International Olympic Committee, who began two days of meetings to examine the city's readiness to host South America's first games.
Paes described crime as a social problem in Rio, hoping to distance it from Olympic preparations.
The city was criticized a year ago by a top IOC member who said Rio's preparations were the "worst" in recent history. Organizers seem to have those preparations back on track, but still face very tight deadlines and rising costs to be ready for the opening on Aug. 5, 2016.
According to recent statistics, the state of Rio de Janeiro, which includes the city of Rio, saw a drop in murders in 2012. But homicides began rising again, jumping 21 percent to 4,939 people killed in 2014.
"Security is an issue for our everyday life," Paes said. "We had something yesterday at (the lagoon), and I mean we have more than we should."
Paes highlighted last year's World Cup, in which at least 150,000 soldiers and police were on duty across the country, as an example of Brazil and Rio's success in organizing large events and keeping the peace.
"Rio has a great experience of hosting big events," Paes said.
IOC officials also began their meetings as a brief labor strike has prevented work at some Olympic venues and also infrastructure projects being built for the Olympics. A labor judge is to rule this week if the strike can continue or must end.
"It's a democratic country," Paes said. "It's a right of the laborers, the people that work, to discuss their salaries with their bosses. I mean this is a regular discussion. I don't see it as a big issue and it's not delaying anything."
IOC officials in Rio for the scheduled "Project Review" included Nawal El Moutawakel, the head of the inspection team that periodically visits the city, and Christophe Dubi, Olympic Games Executive Director.
They did not make themselves available for comment.
Leonardo Espindola, the No. 2-ranking official in the Rio state government, said he was confident the severely polluted Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing, would be ready for a test event in August.
Last month, an official of sailing's world governing body threatened to move all sailing events out of the bay to open water in the Atlantic. Rio officials had promised to clean the bay in their Olympic bid in 2009, but now acknowledge they will resort to stop-gap measures in the 147-square-mile body of water.
"The races will be in Guanabara Bay," Espindola said. "There is no chance to change the field of play. The sailing will take place in Guanabara Bay."
Espindola said 10 so-called eco-boats, used to collect floating garbage, will be back in the water "one or two months" before the August test event. He said five boats might also be added to the fleet.
He said 11 so-called eco-barriers, to block garbage from flowing into the noxious waters, would also be in place.
"The big problem for us is the floating garbage," he said.
Guanabara Bay and the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon are both beautiful venues with filthy water and are among Olympic organizers' biggest problems.
Rio lacks basic sanitation, a decades-old problem for the poor in hilltop slums, and also for many well-off residents who live in suburban apartments that flush their sewage untreated into the sea.
Matt Smith, who heads the World Rowing Federation, was asked earlier this month by The Associated Press if he would swim in the rowing venue.
Smith replied: "I don't think I would go swimming in that lagoon."
Rio officials also confirmed Wednesday that water polo will be moved from a central venue near the Maracana stadium to one of two swimming venues at the Olympic Park, the heart of the games in western Rio. Officials said it could also wind up in Deodoro, the second largest cluster of venue.
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