The Brazilian Sports Ministry has set aside a budget of USD 712 million towards the staging of South America's first Olympics and the Paralympics thereafter. But an audit by the Brasilia-based national auditing office, TCU, has shown that only five percent of that funding has been spent.

The report also accused the Public Olympic Authority, a public consortium set up to oversee delivery of the games, of poor coordination. The organizers were not immediately available for comment. Brazil is also hosting the World Cup in 2014 amid widespread fears that even if stadiums are ready in time, the necessary huge overhaul of the giant country's sagging infrastructure will not be completed in time.

The World Cup alone is set to cost an estimated USD 16 billion. Of that, USD 3.5 billion going on stadiums, including four brand new arenas in cities without major football clubs, prompting concern they will prove to be "white elephants".

The TCU audit was unveiled a month after an International Olympic Committee coordination commission visited Rio to oversee progress on the sites ahead of the Games, for which organizers have earmarked an operating budget of around USD 4 billion. But the capital budget is around three times as much and already there are fears millions of public money may be needed to shore up the cost of the extravaganza.

The Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported during the commission's visit it had obtained documents showing barely half of the Games' projects were on track amid construction delays and a dire shortage of hotel capacity. Brazil is already racing to overhaul its creaking airport infrastructure with the World Cup just nine months away.

The Estado de Sao Paulo said the IOC judged infrastructure projects to be in the red category, that is, clearly behind schedule. The TCU documents highlighted a lack of firm dates to begin as yet not started the building work, citing an "absence of solid plans."

And the TCU report concludes that, while it could not describe proceedings as being "paralyzed", nonetheless "it is reasonable to infer that the current flow of budgetary resources risks (leading to) potential delays" in preparations.

A further reported concern of the audit office is just what use the Olympic sites will be put to when the games are over. The fear of host cities being left with "white elephant" facilities has been a regular theme in recent decades.

(Agencies)

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