Rio de Janeiro is on track to deliver a “fit, clean and fun” Olympic Games on time and on budget, according to the deputy chief executive of the city’s organising committee.
Speaking at Rio 2016 headquarters before Monday’s release of tickets for the Games, Leonardo Gryner also said his organisation had learned lessons from Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, an event which attracted widespread protests.
“I think the great lesson for Brazil from the World Cup is the key role of planning,” he said. “Compare the two projects: the Olympics was very comprehensively planned from the beginning because it is required by the IOC … in the World Cup they don’t require that. Brazil was given the World Cup without even knowing which cities [would host matches]. The cities were appointed two years after. The planning only started then.
“It will be fit, clean and fun. Clean meaning being ethical. Fit that we are doing what is needed and nothing else. That will show that many cities can host the Olympics without overspending. ”
The Rio Olympics will largely be staged in existing or temporary venues, instead of expensive facilities with limited use after the festivities have finished. Only six of the 28 sports will be at wholly new sites and there is no grand Olympic Stadium. The famous Maracanã will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as football while the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, home of Botafogo, will temporarily expand from a 40,000 to 65,000 capacity in order to host athletics.
“The basis of this project is what was built for the Pan American Games in 2007,” Gryner said, adding that of an Olympic budget of 37bn Brazilian reals (£7.67bn), only 6bn was earmarked for work on sports venues and the athletes’ village. Much more, he said – 24bn – was being spent on construction projects to benefit the city of Rio itself.
Protests over the World Cup were fuelled by a lack of such investment in infrastructure, particularly given the high cost of staging the event. Two weeks ago, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against the government of President Dilma Rousseff.
“We were very curious to see if there would be banners saying ‘No Olympics’, said Gryner. “There was nothing like that. People have a very clear understanding of the benefits of the Games. This is shown to us through the surveys we undertake. The last poll, at the end of last year, was 67% of Brazilians in favour of the Games.”
Concerns do exist – the 33% not in favour may doubt the use of fragile water supplies at an Olympic golf course built on an environmental reserve, disproportionate benefits for wealthier areas and the fact that the lagoon to be used for the sailing smells rather iffy.But all Olympic hosts encounter problems, and a British delegation were in Rio last week to offer advice to their Brazilian successors. Gryner said Rio had learned from London 2012 both in terms of planning and over “preparation for the teams, operational readiness”, which he said had seen London “very well prepared for plan B and sometimes plan C”
“We hope we’ll be able to mimic that very well,” he said, adding that also following London, the Rio Paralympics would be “a great event … organised in the same way as the Olympics”.Gryner conceded that some infrastructure projects – which include improvements to Rio’s port as well as railways and roads in a city which suffers from brutal traffic congestion – would run close to the opening ceremony on 5 August 2016. But he said: “We can very easily say we are on budget and on time. We feel very proud of that.
“Everything is on schedule to be delivered on time for the test events. Every problem has been overcome. Everything will be ready at least eight months before the Games.”
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