By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

August 5 -  Rio de Janeiro organisers today marked the six-year countdown to the 2016 Olympics by creating a team of athletes and coaches to assist in the preparations.

Rio 2016 said the Sports Advisory Council was formed so athletes and coaches can help in the Games' organisation, promotion and legacy.

The Council's honorary President is Brazilian International Olympics Committee member João Havelange, the former head of FIFA.

Rio 2016 committee president Carlos Arthur Nuzman said Rio is following the example of London 2012 organizers, who created a similar sports council.

"It will be fundamental to count on the collaboration of those who acted or is acting in the competition field," Nuzman said.

"This group has extensive experience and will advise us mostly on what concerns the sports facilities and the Olympic Village."

Fourteen former and active athletes and coaches have already been chosen for the Council, including Carlos Alberto Parreira, who managed the Brazil side that won the 1994 World Cup and who coached South Africa at this year's tournament,  former Brazil and WNBA women's basketball player Janeth Arcain, Brazil's men's volleyball coach Bernardinho, and former tennis player Gustavo Kuerten.

Other prominent names include Joaquim Cruz (pictured), who beat London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe to claim the gold medal in the 800 metres at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

"Our opinion is really fundamental and I hope to contribute [so] the athletes [can] find an ideal competition environment," said Maureen Maggi, the women's long jump gold medalist in Beijing in 2008.

The Council is expected to hold regular meetings, and its members will directly cooperate with the sports and infrastructure departments of the organising committee to help improve the preparation, officials said.

The Council's members will also assist in the promotion of the Rio 2016 Games in Brazil and abroad.

Rio State Governor Sérgio Cabral, highlighted the Rio 2016 Games legacy.

"We are building the 2016 generation, which will have a much better life quality and will live in a much better city," he said.

"This is going to be a great legacy for the next generations.

"And when I talk about legacy, I do not only refer to sports facilities.

"The Games will cause a real transformation in the city, not only in transport and sanitation, but also in education, security, to mention just a few examples."

Rio de Janeiro Mayor, Eduardo Paes, also saluted the date.

"The preparation of the city has already begun. Infrastructure works, new transport corridors and the revitalisation of the Docks Area are in full steam," he said.

"We are going to deliver to the athletes a city in accordance with the  Olympics, and for the 'carioca' [the metropolitan area of Rio] a transformed Rio, with better services and more life quality."

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