Rio 2016 organizers change minds, will provide free air con

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Posted: Dec 04, 2015 11:16 AM
Rio 2016 organizers change minds, will provide free air con

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Throw away the floor fans.

Rio de Janeiro Olympic organizers have changed their minds and said Friday that athletes will have free air conditioning in their bedrooms at the athletes village.

The decision to have free air conditioning comes after The Associated Press reported this week that about 10,000 Olympic athletes would have to pay for it because of budget cuts.

"The sports department found a solution that could allow us to have the air conditioning," said Mario Andrada, the spokesman for the 2016 Games. "So were buying air conditioning for all the athletes' bedrooms and social rooms."

Rio organizers are making severe cuts to try to balance their operating budget of 7.4 billion reals ($1.9 billion). Andrada said they are cutting "fat" that could reach 2 billion reals ($520 million), which is almost 30 percent of the operating budget.

Andrada termed the reversal "an evolution and not a change" in planning for the Olympics, which run Aug. 5-21.

The decision will be welcomed, and it's apparently a surprise to many.

Kitty Chiller, the team chief for the Australian Olympic team, said Friday in an email that she was expecting not to have air conditioning.

"Rio organizers have told us they will be providing a fan in each of the bedrooms and the lounge room of each apartment," she said in a statement. "This was also confirmed in a meeting with the organizing committee in Brazil this week."

Chiller said she did not expect the heat to be a problem in the South American winter.

"We do not anticipate any athletes suffering from any heat stress in the village or anywhere in Rio," Chiller wrote.

Though it is winter, the temperature soared on Aug. 19 this year to 35.4 degrees C (95.7 degrees F).

Rio Olympic organizers are being buffeted by a deep recession in the country. The local currency has collapsed in value against the dollar and inflation is running at 10 percent.

There is also a growing corruption scandal involving state-run oil giant Petrobras that has helped trigger impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Officials say the Olympic cuts involve "back stage" elements unseen on television or by ticket-paying customers. This could involve organizers buying cheaper products and services, cutting signage, or using more temporary structures.

The games were to have 5,000 employees when they open on Aug. 5. That's been scaled back by 500.

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Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP