RIO DE JANEIRO - Rio de Janeiro needs proper planned investment, rather than rush through improvements tailored to a three-week Olympic Games in August next year, a top US authority on major sports events planning said.
"The Olympics are not the investment you need, or maybe 20 percent. Why not spend 80 percent of your money on the stuff you do need? Resources are scarce," Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College, told AFP.
Zimbalist, whose recent book Circus Maximus is a study in the benefits -- or otherwise -- of staging World Cups and Olympics, noted the London Games of 2012 had required less in terms of infrastructure investment than Rio, which is spending roughly $11.8 billion a mix of private and public cash on the event.
"Rio is much more dislocating and expensive and more of a strain on the system. There's much more commotion" in displacing people from some residential areas being given over to the Games and connecting four different districts via new bus and light rail services.
"I am confident they will find a way to pull off the events," predicted Zimbalist, who has worked as a consultant in Latin America for the United Nations Development Program.
But he expressed concern at the febrile political atmosphere which last week saw hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets to express anger at a huge corruption scandal at state oil firm Petrobras which has left the government of President Dilma Rousseff reeling.
Two years ago Brazil saw even larger protests over rising living costs and the cost of staging the World Cup whose price tag was similar to the Olympic tab.
"This is pushing Brazilians to a tipping point as most of the costs will not be recovered. They are helping to create a large budget hole" at a time when the economy is struggling, Zimbalist warned in a negative assessment ahead of South America's first ever Olympiad.
"Look at the recent public protests -- (hosting the Games) is taking a very fragile and exposed system and making the wounds rawer than before. "
Dubbing the Games a "poor excuse for investment" he added: "Brazil needs to learn in the long run how to plan without the Olympics standing over its heads with a cudgel."
Zimbalist indicated in a telephone interview that Boston, chosen as the US candidate to host the 2024 Summer Games, would face similar arguments over cost effectiveness, given the International Olympic Committee exercises a monopoly in selling Games rights.
Recent bids have attracted dwindling numbers of candidate cities -- the 2022 Winter Games has just two bidders in Almaty and Beijing -- amid concerns that costs will spiral out of control.
Zimbalist praised IOC president Thomas Bach as "innovative, intelligent" for seeking to encourage more modest bids and overhauling the movement with his Olympic Agenda 2020.
But the economist worried that might in itself bring more cities to the table looking to trump those trying to keep spending down.