Officials have confirmed that the velodrome being constructed for the 2016 Rio Olympics will be completed by the end of the month. Training events that have been planned for the track are still confirmed to be on schedule for June 25th and 26th, but a full test event seems to be out of the question.
Carlos Nuzman, President of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, is among those confirming completion.
“An end of June finish date would ensure that athletes would be able to train in the velodrome and have a feel of the track in time for the cycling events,”said Rio 2016’s Director of Communications Mario Andrada.
The track has been one of the many struggles the Brazilian city has faced in the lead up to this summer’s Olympics. Construction delays and Zika virus fears have been just a few of the problems that have plagued the organizers efforts.
Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, also provided confirmation that the venue will be ready to go. In a report to the International Olympic Committee, organizers have reassured the IOC that installation of operational systems and staff training have been completed, even though the venue is still under construction.
Planning delays as far back as 2007 were just the start. After the plan to retrofit an existing velodrome were found to be just as expensive as building a new one, plans went forward for the new construction. The new venue is hoped to help boost track cycling in South America. Later, issues with laying the track surface and financial problems have delayed the the construction even further.
Training events scheduled for June 25th and 26th will continue on as planned, providing athletes a chance to learn the intricacies of the track. Earlier test events in March were cancelled, leading to concerns the venue would not be ready.
“We’re going to open the track, but the UCI has told us it’s very unlikely that any international cyclists will come. It’s too close to the games,” Andrada told The Associated Press on Monday.
“The test event was due for the end of March and was cancelled, and we had previous plans before that put back as well,” UCI President Brian Cookson told the Associated Press. “We talked about a training weekend at the end of June but now we understand there are problems with that as well. All of these things are very, very worrying.”
The Zika virus still continues to be a thorn in the side of the Rio 2016 organizers. As the virus has gained more attention, and the World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency, many athletes are still weary of the situation.
WHO has also stated that Zika is not enough of a risk to justify postponing or relocating the games, but that has not stopped athletes from deciding not to attend the games. Cyclingnews reported that BMC cyclist Tejay van Garderen has decided to pull his name from potential athletes representing the US in the road cycling disciplines.
Rio organizers are quick to downplay the risk to athletes and spectators attending the games, pointing to a rapid drop in cases reported during Brazil’s winter months. They have sited their test events as a sign of hope.
“We also have to underline that that there have been zero cases of Zika infection in 44 Olympic test events so far, among 7000 athletes and 8000 volunteers,” said Andrada.
Many of the worlds top male athletes have voiced their support of the games, but notably missing is support from female athletes, who are at risk of transmitting the virus to a developing fetus. The virus can lead to microcephaly, a condition that can cause a fetus’ brain to be underdeveloped at birth. Men can also transmit the virus to women through sexual contact. More than 4,700 cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since October of 2015, according to the BBC. Based on current evidence and other similar viruses, the Center for Disease Control believes that future pregnancies would not be at risk after the virus has been cleared from the blood stream.