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Olympics : 'We must listen to the people'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) would be wrong to ignore the popular protests that rocked Brazil during the recent Confederations Cup, IOC presidential candidate Richard Carrion told AFP Wednesday in Lausanne.

The 60-year-old Puerto Rican banker - one of six men vying to succeed Jacques Rogge when he steps down on September 10 in Buenos Aires - said people were demanding more accountability from their governments in the present climate of economic crisis.

Carrion was speaking in the wake of the Brazilian government being taken by surprise by the explosion of anger led by urban youths railing against rampant corruption and the billions of dollars invested in the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro rather than in health, education and public transport.

"We are living in an age of great economic pressures, an age dictated by austerity," Carrion told AFP prior to the IOC meeting here this week where on Thursday he and his rivals will make presentations to fellow IOC members.

"As a result there is less money for investment in sports projects. We would have to be tone deaf to not hear what the people on the streets are saying.

"Where public opinion can turn in a matter of days, we better listen to that message when we do come to vote on host cities."

Carrion, an IOC member since 1990 and who was responsible for brokering the record $4.38billion (3.3 billion euros) broadcasting deal with NBC to have exclusive US coverage of the Olympics through to 2020, said nevertheless hosting a Games should remain viable for as many cities as possible.

"We should not be making the Games unattainable to countries," he said.

"Whether there is a stadium capable of holding 90,000, 70,000 or 20,000 it's about the competition. You remember the competition not the surroundings. Yes the Bird's Nest (the main stadium in Beijing in 2008) was amazing but what people remember is Usain Bolt (winning the 100 and 200m gold medals)."

Carrion, who readily admits he does not have an Olympic sporting past, says while his business background would be useful were he to be president what was more important was to not forget the basic values of the movement and the grassroots of sport.

"Business acumen, experience as I have of leading a large organisation, is all very important," he said.

"However, what is key to me is not to forget the roots of the movement. If we (the IOC members) forget it is about values we will lose. Yes it is like running a large enterprise, a sporting version of the United Nations if you will, but it is also about personal relations, political, corporate and diplomatic."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130703/olympics-we-must-listen-the-people