By Helen Trouten Torres, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Cities across the globe are using mega events like the World Cup and Olympics to catalyze urban development and social and economic change. Being a host city is a way in which cities can express their personality, enhance their status, and advertise their position on the global stage, hence the increasing number and value of bids. Brazil and Rio de Janeiro’s successful bids and subsequent planning for these events is drawing heavy anticipation of success, as well as focus on the long-term outlook after the games have gone.
The International Olympic Committee has become more interested and invested in the potential urban legacy its events can have on host cities. In 2000, the IOC created the “Olympic Games Global Impact” as an effort to better understand the overall impacts of the event on its host cities. Now all hosts, beginning with London in 2012, are required to consider legacy issues through all stages of event planning.
In the first of a three part series, The Rio Times examines the predicted legacy for Rio in terms of infrastructure, as we look at how the city will be redeveloped for the mega-events. In the coming issues, the legacy for the Brazilian economy and the social impact will be covered.
Rio has made transportation a priority. New highways are being built linking the airport with the key points in the city and new trains have been ordered, including the extension of the city’s subway metro to Barra da Tijuca where much of the Olympic Games will be held. Unfortunately, a planned high-speed train connecting Rio to São Paulo has reported delays and is not expected to open in time for the games.
Over the next few years, improvements will be made to public transport using the bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which aim to reduce traffic as well as being environmentally friendly. The twelve host cities of the World Cup plan to build 500 kilometers of new BRT corridors.
In addition, Brazilian cities are investing in new metro lines, bicycle lanes, flyovers and gondolas, all aiming to create truly integrated transportation options. Some of these developments will serve people living in neighborhoods that currently have limited access to public transport.
Barcelona showed that a city could significantly improve its infrastructure and redevelop much of its coastline while hosting the 1992 Olympics. Reports indicate an improved quality of life for residents afterward, as well as increased investments and tourism, transforming Barcelona into one of the most visited cities in Europe after London, Paris and Rome.
With this in mind, the government has approved nearly US$3 billion to expand and renovate sixteen airports and guaranteed another US$400 million related to the country’s seaports. An electronic system of passport control is expected to be rolled out to all major airports in time for the mega-events, as all residents will have e-passports by 2014.
The Plan for Accelerating Growth (PAC) is providing $18 billion for urban infrastructure in host cities for the World Cup and Olympics.
However Carlos Caicedo, Head of Latin America forecasting at Exclusive Analysis, explains: “The main hurdle is by far whether the authorities will be able to build the stadiums and new facilities on time and on budget. Several projects are running behind. Investigation over inflation of budgets have resulted in temporary suspensions of projects.”
In comparing the infrastructure development to past learning, Caicedo offers: “In this respect, the 2007 Pan-American Games, which were also staged in Rio, are quite illustrative of the challenges. The final expenditure in facilities for the Games was more than double of what was initially projected.”
However, a source close to the Olympic organizers points out that it was because of the Olympic-standard facilities built for the Rio 2007 Games, which will all be used at the Olympics and the Paralympics (the Joao Havelange Stadium, the Multi-Use Arena, the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, the Velodrome and the Deodoro Sports Complex), Rio was the 2016 candidate city that required the smallest amount of venue construction, and can now concentrate investment for the Olympic and Paralympic Games on much needed infrastructure that will transform the city.
Past president of the tourism board (Embratur) Jeanine Pires is adamant the deadlines will be met and sees the mega-events as an opportunity to improve the city. She recently told a press conference, “the legacy of change is very important to us.”