Blair to Rio Olympic organizers: Focus on legacy

Associated Press
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers a speech during a seminar with businessmen and athletes in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged Olympic organizers Tuesday to concentrate on a legacy that goes beyond sports, making sure the Rio de Janeiro Games benefit the city well after 2016.

"It cannot be just about the three weeks of the games," Blair said. "There is no point doing the games if there isn't a sense that something is being built for the long term."

Blair, who was crucial in helping London win the bid for the 2012 Games, made the comments at a seminar with business leaders and Brazilian government authorities in Sao Paulo.

He said one of the most important benefits of hosting major events is not only improving infrastructure and building top sports facilities, but also to encourage the use of sports to aid communities.

"Part of the legacy is about what sport can do to society," he said. "Sport today is far more important that just sport itself. It can be used as a great anti-crime policy, a great health policy."

Blair hopes the London Games will give youngsters the chance to discover sports and learn what it can do to their lives. He added that many of them first learn basic social skills thanks to sports.

"That's what we are trying to instill in our kids, and what you will want to try to instill in yours," he said.

Blair also noted that Rio needs to balance public and private investment, and an upgrade of Brazil's transportation system will be essential to successfully host not only the 2016 Olympics but the 2014 World Cup.

"The London Games are inspiring to us," Brazil Sports Minister Orlando Silva said. "Brazil will try to organize a historic event and we will look to the experiences abroad to help reach our goal."

Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral said preparations for the 2016 Games are going well and the International Olympic Committee is pleased.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said the city is still planning most of the spending for the games, with exact budget figures available next year. Blair said it's normal for the final budget to differ significantly from the initial figures in events as big as the Olympics.

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