In this photo released by Rio 2016 Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, youths form the number 1,000 to mark the number of days before the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games inside Mangueirao stadium in Belém, Brazil, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Alex Ferro, Rio 2016 Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games)AP2013
RIO DE JANEIRO – The countdown to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics reached 1,000 days on Saturday, a major calendar milestone for the 2016 games.
Cariocas — as Rio residents are known — celebrated the date with various activities scattered around several days and various cities.
Games officials opened an observation platform at the Olympic Park, which will be the center of the games in three years. Construction has barely begun on many of the sports venues, and on Saturday the area was only a barren, 291-acre (118 hectares) mud flat.
The park is located in the west of Rio, a 45-minute drive from the city's famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.
Sergio Cabral, the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, promised that everything will be ready when the games open on Aug. 5, 2016.
"We managed to get to the 1,000 days with construction work in progress and with deliveries underway," Cabral said. "I have no doubt, according to what I saw in Beijing (2008) and what I saw in London (2012), that we will be ready when the Olympic Games begin."
In another related event, religious and government officials scheduled a mass for Saturday at the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, which towers over the city from a mountain top.
Organizers also unveiled the 64 pictogram icons that will be used for Olympic and Paralympic events. And in the city of Belém — in Brazil's far north — 1,000 athletes posed in the formation of a number "1,000" for an official photo to mark the day.
Celebrating the 1,000 days allowed Rio organizers to focus on good news about the games, which have struggled with delays that have raised concerns with the International Olympic Committee.
IOC officials have repeatedly asked Rio to speed up work on venue and infrastructure construction, and have warned that meeting deadlines will be difficult.
The Rio preparations have been overshadowed by next year's World Cup in Brazil and, to a lesser extent, the Winter Olympics early next year in Sochi, Russia.
Ongoing street protests across Brazil since the Confederations Cup five months ago — a warm-up for next year's World Cup — have drawn attention to Brazil's poor public services, high taxes and soaring costs. Many demonstrators have questioned why the country is spending $15 billion on the World Cup, and a similar amount on the Olympics.