Rio Faces Onslaught of Olympic Pressure

Despite budget increases, Rio is hit with several criticisms of the preparations for the 2016 Olympics.

By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With the 2014 World Cup start date now a little over three weeks away and numerous stadiums still classified as works-in-progress, Rio de Janerio’s preparations for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games have also come under the international spotlight, leaving the city and various agencies responsible for the Games to deal with a new onslaught of heavy criticism.

Rio 2016 Olympic Budget, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Rio’s new governor, Luiz Fernando Pezão, along with the minister of sport and Rio mayor Eduardo Paes announcing a budget increase in April, photo by Bruno Itan/Imprensa RJ.

Most recently the Associated Press reported Rio’s state environment secretary, Carlos Francisco Portinho stating in a May 7th letter to Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, that with the current available funds, the city would not meet its goals of trash and sewage removal from Guanabara Bay in time for the Olympic Games.

Guanbarra Bay is scheduled to host Olympic sailing events and while the city of Rio tested the waters and found them to be acceptable by Brazilian standards, both national and international sailors have voiced complaints about the quality of the bay’s waters. The International Olympic Committee however, states that it will not conduct additional tests.

Water pollution, including trash and raw sewage, is a serious and ongoing problem for the city. Officials had pledged during the city’s 2009 Olympic bid, to treat up to eighty percent of the raw sewage in the Bay’s water by the Games. Currently numbers show that only about forty percent of the waste has been treated.

This last blow comes soon on the heals of an April 31st report when IOC vice-president John Coates, an Australian involved in Olympic sport over forty years, warned progress was as bad as he had ever seen. An AOC (Australian Olympic Committee) statement paraphrased Coates describing the Rio preparations as “the worst I have experienced” and “worse than Athens”, going on to add the city faced “social issues that need to be addressed”.

IOC Vice-President John Coates, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News

IOC Vice-President John Coates called the preparations for the 2016 Rio games “the worst I have experienced”, image recreation.

“The IOC has formed a special taskforce to try and speed up the preparations but the situation is critical on the ground,” said Coates in a statement on the Australian Olympic Committee’s website. “The IOC has adopted a more ‘hands-on’ role. It is unprecedented for the IOC but there is no Plan B. We are going to Rio.”

Work to be done includes the construction of six venues and the renovation of an additional three venues, that will become the Deodoro Olympic Park. Located in the Northern section of Rio, construction at that Olympic site, the second largest cluster of Olympics venues in the city, had been slated to begin in 2013. After meeting with numerous delays, the construction is now scheduled to start during the second half of this year.

“The recent announcement of the budget for infrastructure and legacy projects, in addition to the launch of the tender process for the Deodoro Olympic Park venues, were crucial developments and unequivocal signs of progress,” the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee release stated.

“We have a historic mission: to organize the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil and in South America. We are going to achieve this,” the release continued, concluding; “In 2016, Rio will host excellent Games that will be delivered absolutely within the agreed timelines and budgets.”

Earlier in April, officials announced a 25 percent increase in the infrastructure budget for the Games. The budget now stands at R$24.1 billion and reportedly includes funds for urban development projects and funds for work on the Rio metro line, which has seen a number of setbacks.

“The bigger the legacy budget is, the more things will be carried out, and the better it is for the city,” Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said on April 17th, in defense of overspending for the games, he added; “We have a sports commitment for the games, but our focus will always be the legacy for the city.”

8 Responses to "Rio Faces Onslaught of Olympic Pressure"

  1. Michael Shewell  May 21, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    I’ve been to Brazil twice, 2001 and 2004. With all of the media “trash talking” the Brazilians BEFORE the World Cup, I’d just like to say that, for what it’s worth, your (country’s) passion is unrelenting and because of that, the event will be as brilliant and as memorable as any. I stand in your defense up here in the U.S. when I hear people speak otherwise. Just like when Russia hosted the Olympics, American media spent the first several days slandering the event. They made it not listenable at times. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen with the World Cup. Again, good luck Brazil. If “The Rio Times” needs an eloquent, accomplished P.R. person, I’ll be glad to move down there and help you out! Just say the word. When people complain about preparations, just say “We were so busy making things safe that we didn’t have time to fill out the paperwork.”

  2. Dave  May 22, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Michael Shewell, you just cannot grasp the enormity of what is happening here. There is no passion here, only in the demonstrations about the expense of it all. Guanabara is disgusting, there are plenty of mangroves around that are dead. No one will dare swim at Flamengo or Botofogo beaches because of the extreme pollution. Raw sewage still flows down from the favela’s, the disparagy between those who have and those who don’t is massive. Yes there are positive sides but there are plenty of negative sides. What Rio needs is someone who can help to right the wrongs and not a PR who will only show the positive sides

  3. Michael Shewell  May 22, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Dave: Thanks for the clarification (Obrigado). While saw the potential for how bad it COULD get when I was there, it seemed under control and moving toward improvement. I know the Brazilians that have come here have found fault as well with the happiest of my Brazilian friends making a life in Europe instead. As for Brazil, I’m wrong apparently and thanks for straightening that out. When you stated “you just cannot grasp the enormity of what is happening here”, you were correct. I have been out of the loop for a while here and was basing my opinion on my personal interactions there in Sao Paulo, Rio, and Recife. In my wishful thinking, I saw, and see, so much potential there as a nation I was doing my best to stay positive. Let’s hope that things do change, the way you state they need to, in the short amount of time left. Thanks for setting me straight.

  4. Gerry  May 23, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    MIchael Sewall, you are correct when you say that there is so much potential here, and it is still here waiting quietly. But there is also an immense amount of corruption, graft and crime, as well. That potential will be suborned as long as the Brazilian voter allows themselves to be bought off cheaply by the same politicians that are continually being re-elected, even as they are under indictment and/or the subject of federal corruption investigations (currently about 40% of the elected legislators). Why should politicians actually do some public good, if they can get re-elected by giving out cheap plastic cups, hats and t-shirts?

  5. American In Rio  May 24, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    I post comments quite frequently and have a tendency to get pretty negative.
    Michael’s posting reminded me of my first trips to Rio in 2002. It was love at first site.
    From 2002 through 2004 I travelled to Rio perhaps 20 times. 2004 I rented an apartment.
    In 2005, sold my house in Los Angeles and moved to Rio.

    That being said, I can relate to Michael’s optimism after his 2 visits.

    Now 12 years later, I’ve unfortunately become pretty jaded. I said to my partner (Brazilian) the other day that I was going to do my best to focus on the things I like and avoid being negative.

    I’ll join Gerry in saying that I pray for a change in this years elections. For those who thought George Bush a cynic, just study up on Dilma. She’s far worse and for Brazil, at least, far more dangerous.

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  7. Theresa Roper  July 14, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    I fell in love with Brazil on my first trip. Only praises for the positive, striving people who want the world to love Brazil. Now for the World Cup, I saw protests against the games in the last minute (which should have been made 4 years ago) intent on creating a chaotic & wild image of the country and its people – even trying to attack it´s team bus! and the team during training. No wonder we saw a team easily demoralized, without the fighting spirit of winners, except for individual actions, trying to impress without order.
    Now the country is angered against 11 men whose esteem they damaged before the games had started, by “washing the dirty laundry in front of guests and the whole world to see” to gain advantages for social problems that existed 2 years ago.
    I am a fan of the Brazilian team from the first time I saw a World Cup.
    The results of taking the steam out of your team’s sail is just what happened. Brazilian people (specially the anarchists) and the Corruption among the FIFA along with the worst referees I have ever seen, are responsible for the Fall of the PentaCampeon!
    Please, do not repeat this history for the Olympic Games. You will crush your athlete’s aspirations!

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