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Brazil's Olympic chief keeps power despite critics

SAO PAULO -- The man who has headed the Olympic movement in Brazil for decades and helped bring the Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro is set to extend his rule amid increased criticism and accusations of wrongdoing.

Carlos Nuzman, whose name has been synonymous with the Olympics in Brazil since the mid-1990s, is poised to win re-election as president of the national Olympic committee for a fifth straight four-year term on Friday despite increased calls to have him removed.

The 70-year-old former Olympic volleyball player is the only candidate.

The only local confederation which opposes Nuzman's candidacy has come forward with evidence of an alleged break-in by members of his committee at its headquarters. Congressman Romario is alleging a possible link between Nuzman and alleged ticket sale irregularities for the 2016 Games.

Brazil Sports Minister Also Rebelo has publicly said he is against having sports officials stay in power for too long, and others have argued that Nuzman shouldn't be head of the 2016 Games and the national Olympic committee at the same time.

Allegations of a lack of transparency and the recent case of files being illegally downloaded by 2016 committee staff from London Olympic organizers also aren't playing in Nuzman's favor.

The Brazilian committee has dismissed the criticism and vehemently denied all allegations. It has provided its defense in all cases against Nuzman, who says he has the support of 29 of the 30 confederations voting for the committee's presidency.

He has been head of the body since 1995 and has retained widespread support internally after working vigorously to bring the Olympics to Brazil _ and South America _ for the first time, a feat that also earned him recognition throughout the International Olympic Committee. Nuzman has been an IOC member since 2000.

"In the last few years we have implemented a series of projects which I intend to continue to develop," Nuzman told The Associated Press via email on Thursday. "We are working intensely to make sure the Brazilian athletes have all the proper conditions to represent the country and achieve the expected results in 2016."

The only opposing force to Nuzman within the committee comes from the Brazilian confederation for ice sports, whose president's attempt to run against Nuzman was thwarted because he allegedly didn't meet some of the eligibility requirements.

The president is Eric Maleson, who himself is facing an investigation into alleged irregularities and poor management in his organization. He claims the confederation is in good standing financially and is clear of irregularities, and says that he is being persecuted by the committee because of his opposition to Nuzman.

"There's a need for a drastic change ahead of Brazilian Olympic Committee," Maleson told The Associated Press. "These same leaders were the ones who called for the break-in and the invasion of our headquarters in Copacabana."

Maleson on Wednesday released a security-camera video to ESPN Brasil showing members of the Brazilian committee entering its headquarters without his authorization last December. However, the committee denied the accusation and said it was entitled to enter the location because the offices were rented and paid for by the committee.

Maleson is not the only one against Nuzman in Brazil. The calls for the official's removal from power have increased among sports commentators and local media recently, with many columnists across the country demanding a change in leadership.

On Tuesday, former Brazilian soccer star Romario criticized Nuzman in a congressional speech and called for an investigation into the process of ticket sales for the 2016 Rio Games, saying that a "safe source" told him that a company linked to a "Nuzman friend" has been assured the rights to sell tickets for the Olympics.

Romario said the friend is Patrick Hickey, an IOC executive board member from Ireland who is a member of the IOC's coordination commission for the 2016 Games. Romario said Hickey's son works for the subsidiary of a company which the former Brazil striker claimed would get the ticket rights.

However, the Brazilian committee released a statement denying the allegation and saying that "the planning process for the ticket sales is in its initial stages" and that only at the end of 2013 it will conduct "a public selection process to choose the company which will provide the ticket sales system."

Hickey also dismissed Romario's allegations.

"Rio 2016 has confirmed it will decide in late 2013 with each national Olympic committee and its authorized ticket reseller how to ensure efficient ticket sales abroad," he said in a statement. "Therefore, a ticket strategy for Rio is not in place yet and all comments (regarding the sales) are purely speculative."

Nuzman and the government were heavily criticized for overspending during the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, and Nuzman was also under scrutiny over Brazil's disappointing performance at the London Olympics.

Despite increase in funding, Brazil won only two more medals at the London Games (17) than it did in 1996 in Atlanta (15). The country's athletes won only three golds in each of the last two Olympics, the same amount they won in Atlanta.

Nuzman said Brazil had won only 39 medals in total in 16 Olympics before he took over, and 69 in the five games since he was ahead of the local committee.

"We have a mission with goals and strategies set to put Brazil in the top 10 in the medal count in the Rio 2016 Games," Nuzman said.

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