Countdown to Rio

Brasil Observer - May 11 2016
27 de Abril de 2016 - Cerimônia de entrega da chama olímpica no estádio Panatenaiko em Atenas Foto: Roberto Castro/ME
Olympic Flame Ceremony in Panathinaiko stadium in Athens on April 27, one hundred days to go for the Rio 2016 Games (Photo: Roberto Castro/ME)

(Leia em Português)


Everything will be ready for the first Olympic Games in South America. But the mood in the city is not the best just yet


By Rosa Bittencourt – from Rio de Janeiro

Within less than three months to go for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the last details are being settled for the greatest sports event on earth, which on 5 August lands in South American for the first time in history. The mood, however, is not the best. Almost all sports facilities where 15,000 athletes will compete are ready, but a long list of problems, let alone the political and economic instability, brings a divided feeling.

Concerns range from health risks related to zika virus to the chaotic traffic of the city, passing through security issues.

Rio expects to receive 800,000 tourists during the Olympic (5-21 August) and Paralympic Games (7-18 September). With representatives from over 200 countries, the city could be the target of terrorist attacks. The political and economic crisis could also generate protests against the Games. For this, more than 67,000 police, including nearly all the state force, the special Battalion for Major Events, the Federal Police and the Army, will be allocated.

Regarding urban mobility, two major projects have not yet been delivered: the rapid bus system to the Olympic Park and the metro line 4, which will connect the tourist area of ​​the city to Barra da Tijuca, the main stage of the competition. There is much work to be done, but both the Rio local government (responsible for the rapid bus system) and the state authority (responsible for underground transport) say the two new services will be ready in July – something that worries experts because there will be little time to perform the necessary tests.

Another unfinished project is the long awaited cleaning of Guanabara Bay (site of the sailing competitions) and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon (rowing). It’s a huge frustration for environmentalists, athletes, locals and tourists who waited for the depollution of these two areas as an Olympic legacy.

In addition, two recent episodes made everything worse. A part of the Tim Maia cycleway built over the sea and promoted as part of the Olympic legacy collapsed after the impact of a giant wave. At least two people died, highlighting the neglect of a construction company that manages other Olympic venues. Indeed, it was confirmed that nine people died during the construction work for the Games – and the main reason pointed out by local authorities is the rush in the execution of these works. During the World Cup, held in 12 host cities, eight workers died, while during the preparation of the London Olympic Games there were no deaths at all.

Criticisms about the works go beyond. It goes to a gentrification policy, as in the area where the Porto Maravilha, which has become a postcard after the revitalization works of the Museum of Tomorrow and the Art Museum. There, many residents were removed to distant regions. The same happened to residents of Vila Autodromo, next to the Olympic Park.



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The expectation of the organizers is that when the Olympic flame is lit, the problems will be left behind so to the locals, next to Brazilian and foreign tourists, will have an unforgettable experience – as happened in the World Cup, despite the 7×1 defeat to Germany. And even though less than half of the tickets have been sold so far.

The tourist stepping in Rio de Janeiro during the Games will find, for sure, a city that is a gift for the eyes. The beaches – some polluted (Flamengo, Botafogo, Urca, São Conrado, Rocinha), other isolated, clean and paradisiacal (Grumari, Prainha) – impress any mortal. And there are many other mandatory tourist attractions: the Corcovado Mountain where reigns the Christ the Redeemer with open arms over the Guanabara Bay, Sugar Loaf, Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, the Botanical Garden, Two Brothers Mountain, Forest of Tijuca…

Who wants to go beyond these, the centre of Rio offers museums and cultural spaces in old mansions of the colonial, imperial and republican periods. It is worth spending two to five days to know the history of the city, which last year celebrated 450 years of age. It is also in the central region that runs the VLT (light train), which will transport people from the Santos Dumont Airport to Novo Rio Coach Station, passing through the famous Avenida Rio Branco, partially transformed into a promenade with gardens, bypassing the Museum of Tomorrow and the Art Museum. Near the centre, in Lapa, it is the bohemian part of the city. There you find a bar stuck on the other, where musicians and dancers make the joy of tourists from all over the world.

It is likely that, just as happened in the World Cup in 2014, the world will be enchanted with Brazil during the Rio 2016 Games. It will sure be a great Carnival, this time an Olympic one. After that we will know if it was all a great illusion or not.


Britain house will be at Lage Park

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One of the most interesting aspects of the Olympic Games are the homes of the participating countries, which act as a meeting place for athletes and fans of all nationalities. A tradition in the Games, it’s in these houses the athletes celebrate their victories, besides offering various cultural attractions during the competition.

In London 2012, Brazil occupied Somerset House, which received several exhibitions and music concerts. In 2016, Britain will occupy the Lage Park, located at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain.

At the same time Britain House will be a second home for Team GB athletes, their friends and family, it will also promote the country as a world leader in business and innovation, offering a program of sports, culture, education, and B2B events.