RIO DE JANEIRO (Brazil), Feb 21, 2016:

Rio’s mayor warned that an extension of the city’s metro system crucial to moving huge crowds around during the Olympics in August may not be completed in time, O Globo newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Brazilian newspaper published what it said was an email sent on Friday from Mayor Eduardo Paes to the International Olympic Committee in which he said there was “a high level risk” that the huge infrastructure project would not make the deadline.

With less than six months until Rio hosts South America’s first Summer Olympics, the metro line, which would link the Olympic Park and Village to the city centre, is the biggest challenge facing the authorities.

In what Globo said was Paes’ email, the mayor suggests an “emergency meeting” and says that an alternative transport plan needs immediate thought.

“I really think we should start studying now and put it to the IOC’s consideration,” Paes is quoted as saying in the email.

The alternative would be a system of dedicated lanes for express buses, O Globo said. Currently, travel between the principal Olympic hub in the western Barra district and the rest of the city requires nightmarish road journeys of one to two hours.

The metro line would reduce the trip to as little as 13 minutes. With the metro project also seen as one of the city’s key Olympic legacies, any change in plan would be a huge embarrassment.

A spokeswoman for the mayor refused to say whether the emails published were genuine. “No one will comment on those internal communications,” Claudia Lopes told AFP.

She said Paes “has confidence in the state. The work is going on”.

Lopes also denied that there was anything unusual in discussing alternative plans.

“Everything that’s being done in terms of works in the city has a contingency plan. That’s what you do when you have an Olympics,” she said, adding that the metro’s alternative plan had been drawn up last year.

The Rio 2016 organising committee did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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