Sao Paulo: Brazil`s outgoing Minister of Sport, Aldo Rebelo, says the 2016 Rio Olympics preparations were progressing well, while acknowledging "problems" surrounding the golf venue which have had ecologists up in arms.
Golf will return to the Olympics after what will be a 112-year gap by the time Rio hosts South America`s first Games in 2016 but ecologists say environmental laws were contravened to build the facility in a nature reserve including wooded and wetland areas, prompting a legal spat.
Rio prosecutors suggested developers create a 400-meter (yards) wide corridor home to thick vegetation and rich fauna around the course after initially calling for the suspension of the construction license before urging modifications of course designer Guy Hanse`s plans.
In an interview with AFP, Rebelo, a 58-year-old from Brazil`s Communist Party, conceded the golf issue had been a concern but that other sites were well on track after initial fears preparations were lagging.
"The timescale, the calendar and the program area are all important aspects of the Games, which, on the one hand, are easier to organize than the World Cup in that you don`t have to travel one-and-a-half million kilometers" from venue to venue.
"On the other hand, there were 12 World Cup venues and had there been a problem somewhere we had 11 other (options)," Rebelo told AFP.
"Today, we are up to date -- there are only problems with the golf course as the Rio prosecutor presented demands to enable construction in such an extensive area. Everything else is coming along."
Rebelo said the main logistical challenge beyond meeting the sporting calendar was to ensure Rio`s infrastructural facelift is completed on time as the city receives a multi-billion dollar makeover, "which is what will allow democratization of sport."
Looking back to the World Cup, regarded as a success at least off the field with Brazil slumping 7-1 in the semi-finals to Germany, Rebelo said it was unfair to compare Brazil with most previous hosts.
"A World Cup in a country such as Brazil is different from a World Cup in a Germany or Japan -- Brazil remains a civilization project under construction. Everything for us is a test, an attempt to surpass ourselves and affirm our own identity," he said, adding the Olympic hosts were hard at work bringing facilities up the Olympic mark.
Looking back to the football, Rebelo said he had been at the Germany game but said the margin of defeat was "an accident" resulting from "a series of errors from the line-up to the way the team performed. And they were facing a team so strong and well-organized that they were champions."
Rebelo indicated he was proud to see fans` stoic reaction to the German humiliation.
"We stayed in the stadium after the game in case there was a decision to take in terms of public security -- but there was no need. People left calmly," he said.