Rio 2016: One year to go

brasilobserver - Aug 18 2015

(Leia em Português)

In August next year, the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ will be host to the world for the first Olympic Games in South America. Marcus Vinicius Freire, executive director for sports at the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and Mark England, Team GB chef de mission, respond to five questions from the Brasil Observer



What is the target of medals for Rio 2016 and what is being done during this Olympic cycle for it to be achieved?

Marcus Vinicius | The goal is to place the country – for the first time – in the Top 10 of the medal table. To reach this goal, the COB (Brazilian Olympic Committee) studied the scene of the latest editions of the Olympic Games and set up a strategic map in 2009 to guide our actions. We identified the need to win medals in about 13 disciplines in 2016, so we focus on investment in 18 or 19 to have a greater range. The COB monitors key athletes from Brazil throughout this Olympic cycle. From this monitoring, the COB defines the support strategy to increase the chances that one athlete or team achieve their best performance during the Olympics. This strategy involves investments in order to meet all the details of preparation in various fields such as sports science; exchange of training and competition; training of coaches; support for multidisciplinary teams; equipment purchase; management of the training centre; and others.

Mark England | We had an extremely successful Olympics in the last couple of cycles with the fourth place in Beijing and now third place in London. I have always found that before the Games we don’t set medal targets; we will set medal targets a little bit closer. We do our job to the best of our ability, and by that I mean if we do all the preparations, all the planning, all the familiarization in the host city, then we hope that in the moment the medal table will take care of itself. There are two areas. The first is education piece with athletes, making sure they are what we call “Rio Ready”, so educating them for Rio’s environment, the venues, the competition structure, the Olympic village. And secondly, the other events programme that is going on at the moment and are key to that, so we have athletes competing in triathlon, equestrian… We are getting our athletes very familiar with Rio de Janeiro but our team focus in terms of preparation also has been to conclude and secure Belo Horizonte as our pre-Games training centre, we have two fantastic bases there.


What have been the main challenges during the preparation?

Marcus Vinicius | The main challenge is time. We have resources and trained staff to change the level of the Brazilian Olympic sport. But time is short. We’re working very hard to achieving our goals.

Mark England | The biggest challenge for us has been the search for the best pre-Games training site. We have good interaction with key sports’ leaders in both the Rio Organising Committee and the Brazilian Olympic Committee. So we haven’t found that challenging, we’ve found it to be a terrific journey so far and very enjoyable too.


Which disciplines are better prepared to win medals?

Marcus Vinicius | The COB does not indicate this or that discipline, and does not speak on behalf of athletes. It belittles the work of those listed and puts unnecessary pressure on the indicated ones. Today we are sure that Brazilian athletes have the best possible preparation and this is being reflected in the results we are getting through the cycle. Toronto 2015 and the World Championships of 2013, 2014 and 2015 are confirming a number of athletes and disciplines in a position to reach the podium in Rio. That’s no guarantee, but we are on track.

Mark England | We have always had very strong sports delivering medals on the world stage and Olympic Games like cycling, athletics, rowing, canoeing, equestrian… So that sports typically have one medal scores but what we’ve found in the last four or five years is that these sports contributing for the medal table is growing year on year so we looking for boxing and judo… We have a wider range of sports that can contribute for Great Britain’s position on the medal table.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of competing in Rio?

Marcus Vinicius | It is the realization of a dream for many athletes. We have a motivating factor for having the home crowd. This, at the same time, can put more pressure on some athletes. It’s a big challenge, but the important thing is to have Team Brazil well prepared technically and mentally and we provided the best possible preparation for our athletes to focus only on competition. Our support is not geared only to those who will contest medals, but for the 400 athletes to have the best results of their careers in the Olympics.

Mark England | It’s the first time that South America is hosting an Olympic Games so it is a continent that typically we are not familiar with and it is a city that typically our athletes don’t train or compete in. And it has brought different challenges for us like the completely different time zone, and also some operational challenges. The advantage is the network of support for our preparation in Belo Horizonte, the network of support we have with the Brazilian Olympic Committee, we are very friendly especially with Marcus Vinicius who, when the Brazil’s team trained in London, was very supportive. So although their are cultural differences, we have a common goal between the two nations for collaboration, it is the greatest advantage I think.


Which legacies the Games can leave for Brazilian sport?

Marcus Vinicius | The Brazilian Olympic sport will never be the same. In terms of structure, we will gain modern facilities that will be used in the preparation of future athletes of Brazil. In terms of training of professionals who work with sport, coaches, trainers, sports marketing, we are gaining a very great knowledge, which will not be lost. But, in my opinion, the greatest legacy will be the inspiration that millions of young Brazilians will have to experience the Olympic atmosphere. I really believe that, once touched by Olympic spirit, young people enchant the values of excellence, friendship and respect and use sport to improve their lives.

Mark England | First of all it’s one of the greatest opportunities to build infrastructure for sports, to really support national federations, to make Brazil a powerhouse for Olympic sports. It’s an opportunity to build a sustainable performance system. And secondly is a great opportunity to have a legacy of high quality training facilities and competition venues. The third is the opportunity to inspire young people take up sport and become active within the community and to really become the stars of the future, to support a healthy nation.