Havelange asks IOC to pick Rio to host 2016 Olympics

Rio de Janeiro - Former FIFA president Joao Havelange on Wednesday asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to choose Rio de Janeiro as the host city of the 2016 Olympics.

"At my age, unfortunately, I no longer have ambitions in sport. But I do have one wish, which is to offer Brazil and South America the organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said Havelange, one of the most important sports personalities in Brazil.

Havelange, 92, made his speech in French before members of an IOC evaluating commission currently visiting Rio.

IOC inspectors led by Moroccan former athlete Nawal El Moutawakel on Wednesday held closed-door consultations with Brazilian authorities to hear about Rio's plans for the 2016 Games.

Brazilian Sports Minister Orlando Silva told the commission of the "total" commitment of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government with regard to Rio's Olympic plans.

"We have a stable economy and a favourable atmosphere for investment. We are convinced of our ability, and our country has its arms open, to host the world and the Olympic family in 2016," Silva said.

Brazilian officials focused on convincing IOC representatives that Rio's ambitious Olympic bid is realistic and viable, despite its estimated cost of 11.6 billion dollars.

Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral said much of the work being done as part of the city's Olympic bid will continue anyway as the country prepares to host the 2014 football World Cup.

"The 2014 World Cup is an important part of Rio de Janeiro's bid. Improvements in ... hotels, security and transport will be useful for both events," Cabral said.

The IOC commission arrived in Rio on Monday, after similar visits to other potential hosts Chicago and Tokyo.

On Thursday, IOC members were to be briefed by Lula and Brazilian Central Bank president Henrique Meirelles on financial guarantees for the public work included in Rio's Olympic bid.

The commission was on Friday to visit facilities such as Maracana stadium and gyms and sports centres built for the 2007 Pan-American Games that were held in Rio.

Their official visit ending Saturday, IOC commission members were to travel to Madrid Sunday, to evaluate the last of four candidates for the 2016 Games. (dpa)