Olympics

Rio state government declares financial disaster as Olympics loom

General view of buildings at the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

General view of buildings at the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (AP)

The acting governor of Rio de Janeiro’s state government declared a state of financial disaster Friday in an effort to change budgetary priorities without disrespecting Brazil’s fiscal laws.

Francisco Dornelles’ move will let him adopt exceptional measures to pay costs related to the upcoming Olympic Games as the state grapples with the country’s steep economic recession.

Dornelles’ office said in a statement that the decision was made because a dip in revenues from taxes and oil royalties was “stopping the state of Rio de Janeiro from honoring its commitment to the organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.” He said the state is facing a “public calamity.”

"The financial crisis has brought several difficulties in essential public services and it could cause the total collapse of public security, health care, education, urban mobility and environmental management," the statement said.

Rio's state government is in such dire straits that two of its hospitals were taken over by the Rio de Janeiro city government to allow doctors to keep receiving their paychecks. Some police stations are so underfunded that they have asked neighbors to donate basic items like toilet paper. Public workers and retirees have suffered months-long delays in receiving their money.

Dornelles, previously the state's vice governor, became acting top executive when elected Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao took a leave of absence to undergo cancer treatment.

Brazilian media reported Friday that Dornelles had asked the country's acting President Michel Temer for nearly $900 million in emergency funds for the state government, but a decision was not announced.

Some of the key Olympic projects depend heavily on the state government.

Along with paying for state police during the Summer Games, Rio de Janeiro state is also committed to paying for construction that will extend the metro to the Olympic Park as well as facilities to clean the waters that sailors will use during the Games.

Rio de Janeiro’s effort to bring the Games to South America for the first time in history has been overshadowed by the consistent controversy surrounding Zika virus and the country’s economic status.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly been urged to call for the Olympics to be moved from Rio de Janeiro. However, the agency reassured earlier this week that there’s a “very low risk” of further international spread of Zika as a result of the Olympics.

"The risks are no different for people going to the Olympics than for other areas where there are outbreaks of Zika," David Heymann, chair of the WHO's expert panel, told reporters at WHO headquarters in Geneva after the meeting.

Scientists also revealed the growing threat of “super bacteria” looming in the waters where some Olympic events are going to be held. According to Reuters, studies revealed the presence of super bacteria on five of the most popular Rio beaches.

Some athletes, including NBA all-star Pau Gasol, have also thought about freezing their sperm prior to going to Rio de Janeiro in case they do contract the virus and it complicates their spouses’ pregnancy.

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5-21.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.