By Duncan Mackay

December 27 - Rio de Janeiro has been backed to put on a great Olympics and Paralympics in 2016 by Jacques Rogge (pictured), the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Samaranch was a key member of Madrid's unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Games but has still backed the choice of the Brazilian city to stage the first ever Olympics in South America.

Speaking to Brazilian newspaper Terra, Samaranch said: "I have no doubt.

"Rio de Janeiro will be excellent, the best Olympic Games.

"In 2016, will be the first Olympics held in South America and this should encourage us.

"The choice of Rio was a strategic choice for International Olympic Committee and should be a unique opportunity for this great country that is Brazil."

Samaranch praised the contribution of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Carlos Nuzman, the President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, for Rio's successful bid, where they were the overwhelming choice of the IOC at its Session in Copenhagen on October 2.

He said: "The true person responsible for the success of Rio are President Lula, who has led Brazil with great charisma and success, and the chairman [sic] of BOC and IOC member, Carlos Nuzman, the real driving force behind the bid.
"The success Rio 2016 is due to the talent and the work of these two great leaders."

Rogge, meanwhile, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that he had no doubt that Rio would be ready in time for the Games despite the challenges it faces, including having to build many of the facilities from scratch.

He told the newspaper: "There are two types of Games, those where everything is in place for several years and those in which everything is done.

"In Sydney we had to build much - but the Australians did very well.

"In Beijing, the same.

"In Athens, we had difficulties but finally accelerated and went very well.

"In Salt Lake City and Turin all was ready.

"So the IOC is not against a virtual project, even if it involves a little more risk."

Rogge believes that the fact Brazil is due to stage the 2014 FIFA World Cup will help ensure everything is in place for the Olympics.

He said: "We do not doubt and believe that the 2014 World Cup will greatly assist the project.

"We trust the Brazilians because they are developing at an extraordinary rate, the World Bank estimates are that Brazil will be the fifth largest economy [in the world] by 2025.

"There will be moments of concern, as with Athens, but they will get everything done."

Rogge also said that he believes that Rio hosting the Games will change a city that has been plagued by violence and poverty.

He said:" I have told the [Rio] Mayor [Eduardo Paes] and Lula that the success of the Games is not only athletic success but also the social heritage.

"We have said very clearly that they must work to improve the social situation.

"They have promised and they will."

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