Rio safest venue for 2012, says mayor

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The Independent Online

Fears of terrorism in rival candidate cities could narrow the competition to host the 2012 Olympics to Paris and Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian city's mayor said.

The Rio mayor, Cesar Maia, said the bids of New York and London would not worry him due to terrorism fears and added: "Just think of the news of the existence of the development of a chemical weapon in England for the use with a massive impact."

He also maintained that the likelihood of George W Bush being re-elected as the United States president would weigh heavily against a bid. On 18 May, the International Olympic Committee will decide whether to accept all nine cities currently bidding for the 2012 Games or reduce the field before its final decision on 6 July 2005. Other contenders include Havana, Moscow and the German city Leipzig.

Rio is bidding for the second time, after being passed over for the 2004 Olympics. Maia brushed away concerns that chronic drug-gang related violence could endanger his city's chances. "International specialists that have come here are absolutely calm," Maia said. "Our weak point [urban violence] cannot be compared with that of the first world, which is terrorism."

Meanwhile, next month's torch relay through Melbourne is in doubt because Greek officials are insisting on flying in their own security force. Only Australian citizens and residents can be licensed to carry out security roles, but the Athens Olympic Committee refuses to budge.

Australia's senior International Olympic Committee member, Kevan Gosper, said he would call on the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, to intervene.