Brazil's only Olympic worry? Getting enough medals—minister | Inquirer Sports

Brazil’s only Olympic worry? Getting enough medals—minister

/ 03:05 PM August 03, 2015

Brazil’s sports minister, George Hilton, says he has only one real concern a year before Rio hosts the 2016 Olympics: the medal haul.

In an interview in the capital Brasilia, Hilton told AFP that the focus is on Brazil getting an unprecedented slot in the top 10 rankings for Olympic medals.

Rio’s preparations for the Summer Games, the first to be held in South America, are going flawlessly thanks to the experience the country gained in hosting last year’s football World Cup, he said.


“We’re moving forward with a very high level of satisfaction that we will be able to deliver all the works according to schedule,” said Hilton.


Starting this August, dozens of international competitions in sailing, riding and other Olympic disciplines will be held in Rio to check the city’s preparations under realistic conditions.

Hilton was confident that Brazil would pass the test, dismissing fears that corruption scandals enveloping major companies involved with Olympics could damage the government’s heavy reliance on private investment to pay for preparations.


Oil giant Petrobras, a sponsor of some of the athletes, is at the heart of a sprawling bribery and kickbacks probe. Odebrecht, a major construction company in the Olympics project, has also been snared in the same investigation.

“It’s clear that the names of certain companies have come up in certain accusations, but the (Olympic) consortium has different companies and they have the financial security for the works not to be affected,” Hilton, 44, said.

Brazil wants medals

Hilton, a former Evangelical preacher who on being named sports minister in January admitted that he knew “nothing about sports,” said the question Brazilians really care about now is how many medals their athletes can win.

He wants to make the top 10 in the medal table.

This is an ambitious goal, given Brazil came 22nd in the 2012 London Olympics table. In the Paralympics, Brazil’s looking for a top seven finish, he said.

“My only concern is winning medals,” Hilton said.

After hosting the World Cup but losing in humiliating fashion 7:1 to Germany in the semi-finals, Brazil is desperate to recover its sporting pride.

“The World Cup was a success from an organizational point of view,” Hilton said.

“There were worries of security problems, that the country would not be ready, but in the end we managed everything, except on the field where we lost with this lamentable result.”

Hilton said Brazil’s traditional Olympic strengths in judo and athletics would lead the way, but he was especially hoping for a first gold in women’s and men’s football.

“We have won the World Cup five times but never the Olympics,” he said.

Basketball, volleyball, canoeing and swimming “without doubt” are other potential medal sports, he said.

However, there have been warning signs for the country with a less than stellar performance by athletes at the Pan Am Games just held in Toronto.

Don’t be gloomy

Brazil is in political turmoil, with the government’s popularity ratings at under eight percent, the opposition threatening to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and the economy about to go into recession.

But Hilton said the pre-Olympic mood was buoyant.

Calling reports of crisis a “media exaggeration,” he criticized “a wave of pessimism that doesn’t correspond to reality.”

Although the government budget is in austerity mode and tax receipts are falling, Olympics financing is safe, thanks to 60 percent of investments being covered by private companies, he said.

“This is the reason we have not got the criticisms that we got during the Confederations Cup and World Cup,” he said.

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As for security worries, the police expect to “repeat the great success of the peaceful World Cup without major problems, without terrorism.”

TAGS: 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics, Sports, Summer Games

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