2 October 2009 was a game changing day for the country of Brazil: it was announced that Rio de Janeiro would be the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games, as well as having previously been awarded host city for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Rio 2016 will be the first Games to be held in South America, showing real progress for the nation as a whole, beating big cities such as Tokyo, Chicago and Madrid to secure the bid.
Preparations for both the World Cup and Olympic Games seem to be well underway in Brazil; it's time for the country to shine and show the world that they are capable of keeping up with the previous more developed host cities of past Olympics.
But will this challenge prove too great? With time ticking by and pressure ever growing, this article reviews the problems Brazil has encountered so far.
We all know that the Brazilians will put on spectacular shows for the opening and closing ceremonies, but with some of the recent stories making headlines all over the world, faith in Brazilian construction ability is starting to run dry. They seem to be going from one major problem to another when trying to complete the construction of the venues in time; all whilst the world watches on.
Over half of the venues needed for the Olympic Games are already operating, having been built in 2007 for the Pan American Games which were held in Rio. When Brazil won the bid to host the 2007 Games, they had planned to modernise Rio, which included a new ring road system, new highway and 54 km of new metro line. Disappointment dawned on the nation when the improvements to road systems never commenced and only 1km of the metro line was installed. Some of the venues which were constructed for the Pan American Games have proven problematic for Olympic Games use; though only fairly recently built, they weren't to Olympic standards, meaning more money had to be invested. Existing venues that have required extensive, expensive alterations include the Brasilia Stadium and Barra Velodrome.
Towards the end of March 2013, the Joao Havelange Stadium, which was due to be the venue for athletics during the Games, was closed indefinitely. The six year old stadium was being renovated to meet Olympic requirements; however, a major structural problem with the roof posed a danger to spectators. This forced authorities to close down the stadium indefinitely until the problem has been resolved. There is no official reopening date for the stadium but it could be as late as 2015.
The Maracana stadium, an iconic venue in Brazil and the chosen venue for the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, recently underwent three years worth of renovations to prepare for the 2014 World Cup. It reopened towards the end of April 2013, having been delayed and nearly 50% over budget. Since reopening there have been reports that the stadium seems unfinished, suffering from problems such as flooding in areas, uneven flooring with gaps and holes and turnstiles and gates not in use. After recent football matches hosted at the stadium things seem to be more complete, but there is still seems to be a large construction presence according to Brazilian reports.
The Fonte Nova Arena, purpose built for the World Cup 2014, has also proved troublesome in recent months. One of the 36 roof panels collapsed when water accumulated on it; the previous day contractors had been performing checks on the roof of the stadium and damaged the panel in question, preventing water draining correctly, which was the main contributing factor of collapse. Although this was not caused by a structural problem or fault, it has again highlighted concern for Brazil's construction competency.
Corruption is rife in Brazil, costing the country almost $41 billion a year, and local government corruption is so prevalent that it is only perceived as a problem if it surpasses certain levels. There have been examples in the Games preparations already when one of the main construction consortiums involved in the major infrastructure regeneration in Rio found themselves in the middle of a corruption scandal.
Thousands of people have recently begun protesting across cities of Brazil, against the costs of hosting the World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016. The hike in the price of tickets for public transport trigged anger amongst commuters. Many are angry with the amount of money being spent on these large events, when there is still such a great divide between the rich and poor in Brazil, and feel that the money would be better spent on improving conditions in the country, such as education and security. There has also been tension caused by officials trying to clear favelas (shanty towns) to make way for venues. It was reported that many were not given prior notice before their homes and businesses were demolished and have still not been compensated for their evictions.
The legacy of the Games
The challenge after the Games is to leave a successful lasting legacy, which will bring benefit to the people of Rio; permanent venues must have a post-games purpose, although past Olympics Games have proved this can be challenging. White elephants can be found in most past Olympic host cities, such as Beijing, where the 'Birds Nest' stadium is currently losing money, as the maintenance costs outweigh the current generated income of the venue. Similar scenes can be found in Athens, where many of the Olympic venues from 2004 games are now derelict, some covered in graffiti, and are a far cry from what they once were.
However, leaving a legacy after the Games can be successful; there are lessons to be learnt from London for example, where many temporary venues were used. There is now a lot of effort going into transforming the Olympic Park area into a community park, where there will be access to sports venues; the first of which, the Copperbox Arena, is now open to the public. There are also five extensive housing developments on the site.
Brazil officials have seen the success of the London Olympics and have been working closely with those involved in organizing London 2012 to try and achieve a similar solution. A masterplan has been devised by AECOM (who also designed the London 2012 masterplan) for the Rio Games Development stage, followed by the Transformation stage once the Games have closed, which should be in place by 2018; finally, the Olympic Legacy stage which should be in place by 2030.
Many people of Brazil are enormously proud that their country has been honoured with hosting the Olympics and World Cup, but there are also many who are disappointed with the amount of money being invested in these events and the priority they are receiving over more serious issues the country is currently suffering from, such as soaring crime rates and ever expanding favelas.
Brazil currently has one of the fastest developing economies in the world. Hosting the Olympics and World Cup will only help to boost this, with recent reports suggesting London 2012 delivered a £10 bn boost to the UK economy; a similar outcome could put Brazil on the right track to resolving some of the issues previously mentioned. Whilst Brazil currently seems to be struggling to cope with the pressures of delivering the Olympic Games, in true Brazilian style, officials for the Games assure us that all will be ready in time for 2016.