Rio’s Newest Worry: the Tennis Venue

The news that the summer Olympics in Rio will host, for the first time, a team of refugee athletes, was great news. Unfortunately, it was almost immediately overshadowed by the announcement of yet another problem concerning the sports facilities for the Games.

International Tennis Federation (ITF) President Dave Haggerty has become the latest leading official to express concerns over the state of preparations for this year’s Olympic Games. His concern, of course, is the tennis facility, which according to reports, lacks lights as well as surfacing.

Haggerty is due in Brazil in the first week of May, when he will inspect the tennis facility and speak with organizers.

Olympic competition is due to begin at the facility on August 6. As a test event, the Brazil Mastercup tournament was held at the tennis center in December 2015, and the venue was declared excellent by players; however, the finishing touches still need to be in place – and tested – in time for any last-minute tweaks that may be needed prior to the Games.

Construction on the Olympic velodrome is also woefully behind schedule.

In January, the city of Rio de Janeiro cancelled the construction contract for the Olympic Tennis Center, citing “intentional delays” on the part of the consortium in charge of building the venue, although Haggerty admitted he will feel a lot more confident when the lighting is up and the final coat of surfacing is down.

However, he is choosing to remain optimistic about the venue being finished on time.

“They have a plan in place and we have a team that is dedicated there….” he noted. “I will have meetings with local contractors and having had the experience of running the US Open, I know that sometimes things don’t always look like they will get done, but they do.”

In the meantime, Rio’s problems continue. At least two people were killed following the collapse of a section of a new elevated bicycle route built in order to connect the center of Rio de Janeiro with Barra de Tijuca, the area expected to host the main Olympic Park at this year’s Games. Investigations are taking place in order to ascertain whether the failure was due to an engineering flaw or poor construction. The path, which collapsed when a wave from the nearby shoreline hit it, was opened in January.

Ironically, the tragedy happened just hours after the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia to start the ever-popular Torch Relay that heralds the Games.

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