By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — After the World Cup ends in July, the next mega event on everyone’s mind for Rio is the 2016 Olympics, the first ever to be held in South America. Along with the global focus has come Philip Wilkinson, a British expatriate working as the international media manager for Rio 2016, and after a year he has been making strides while settling into the Carioca lifestyle.
Having visited Rio once before back in 2004 on a backpacking trip, Wilkinson finds himself back here in the Cidade Maravilhosa this time realizing career goals and dreams as part of Rio 2016. “Rio left a special impression on me when I visited as a backpacker a decade ago in 2004,” says Wilkinson. “I thought it was the most inspiring and scenic city in the world, and the spirit of the Cariocas caught my imagination.”
Wilkinson works within the Rio 2016 Communications team, which consists of twenty-five professionals across four areas – digital communications, media relations, editorial services and language services.
“As International Media Manager my role involves building open, trusted relationships with journalists from international media outlets, either based here in Rio as foreign correspondents, or elsewhere around the world,” says Wilkinson.
From their Centro headquarters in Cidade Nova, he explains, “I work both proactively and re-actively to promote initiatives, identify news opportunities and respond to issues on behalf of the Organizing Committee.”
Wilkinson’s background includes seven years with the British Olympic Association based in London as Media Manager for Team GB. He handled interest in British athletes such as Chris Hoy, Amy Williams and Andy Murray at the Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Olympic Games.
In Rio, he has a different role encompassing a much wider spectrum of areas than just sport and a UK focus. The media interest in the 2016 Games from around the world includes topics like sustainability, education, transportation developments, as well as sponsors.
“I am a passionate believer in the power of sport and the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect to play a part in benefiting society, therefore what the two roles have in common is a sense of pride and determination to play my small part,” says Wilkinson.
The Organizing Committee is continuing to grow, with already a team of six hundred professionals assembled and ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
As the committee continues to expand its operations over the next two years, they are planning to launch a search to find, select and train 70,000 volunteers for the Games in 2016. Doubtless there will be many international professionals and students hoping to work and volunteer in Rio for the Games.
“Every Games is different and faces unique challenges and opportunities,” describes Wilkinson. “The Organizing Committee works hard to help its expatriate employees culturally adapt and there is a great sense of team spirit and a warm Brazilian welcome within the Committee.”
Though busy and focused on a daunting task, Wilkinson is grateful for his time here in Rio. “Overall, my first year in Rio was a memorable one and it is a privilege to be a part of this incredible city at one of the most exciting times in its famous history,” praised Wilkinson. “We are all working hard to deliver unique and memorable Games in 2016, to make the nation proud and show the world what Brazil can do.”
As an expatriate working in Rio though, life can be challenging, and Wilkinson shares, “Through the Committee, I have received help with Portuguese lessons, searching for accommodation, opening bank accounts, and dealing with the various documents you need to process when you arrive,” explains Wilkinson. “Breaking down the language barrier has been the key to making daily life run more smoothly, both in and out of the office.”