By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Almost exactly six months after the announcement in Copenhagen that the city of Rio would host the 2016 Olympic Games, the UK Sports Minister Tessa Jowell and a team of representatives from the London Olympics arrived in the city to formalize and expand on the burgeoning relationship between the two countries.
With the emphasis for 2012 very much on legacy and sustainability, these two elements became the watchwords for a meeting between the two countries’ sports ministries which culminated in the signing of the ‘Host2Host’ agreement on Thursday of last week between Tessa Jowell and Brazilian Sports Minister Orlando Silva.
“Hosting the Olympics and Paralympics is no longer a matter of 27 days of sporting glory, it is a bid to create an opportunity for the city to make a statement,” said Jowell.
London is using the Games in 2012 to regenerate the poorest, worst connected and lowest skilled part of the city, and to mobilize and transform an entire generation of kids through sport, ambition and self esteem. It plans to be the most environmentally friendly Games as well as the most sustainable.
Dan Esptein, head of sustainability for the Olympic Delivery Committee called it an “admirable ambition,” Rio plans to take its responsibilities to the environment even further in the run up to 2016. The city has similar regeneration ideals in mind for the Deodoro area in the north of the city which will become one of four ‘zones’ of Olympic activity, along with Copacabana, Barra and Maracanã.
“The Beijing Games were unusual so we had to look back to Sydney in 2000 for examples to follow,” he said, while Jowell, continuing the theme of co-operation added, “We will make mistakes so that Brazil doesn’t have to.” It is a formal knowledge sharing agreement that partners London and Rio in international development and will also be used as an opportunity to expand trade relations between the two countries.
“We have similar ambitions shaped by different conditions, but both countries are striving for excellence.” She said, before adding, “But the Games will be good for the bottom line as well.”
The meeting was hosted by the government bank BNDES which will be providing a huge number of loans for the developments required. Bank Director, Elvio Gaspar, reinforced the ideas of sustainability, saying; “We will refuse to invest in any projects that have no integration with the city, with inadequate waste management, with no planned legacy. We will not have ‘white elephants’ after these Games.”
The planning and strategy of the works was a key feature of the British team’s presentation, urging that minute details be considered before the first hole is dug with an Olympic shovel. An apparently slow start in London was actually the result of a huge program of power line burial, earth cleaning and negotiating, highlighting that practicalities of sustainability are not to be underestimated.
Director of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Alexandre Techima delivered an enigmatic run through of exactly how Brazil’s Olympics will offer a unique experience and what they will bring to the city. Following record coverage of the bid result when over 250 global front pages showed the celebrations on Copacabana Beach the next day, Techima spoke of a combined global television audience for the 2014 World Cup Finals and 2016 Olympic Games of around 62 billion people.
That is a lot of eyes on Brazil, and will make the challenge ahead even more important to get right. “We want to offer a unique experience, different to Beijing and to London,” Techima said. “This is an opportunity for the transformation of not just the city, but the nation.”