By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In less than two months, over ten thousand athletes from across the globe will arrive in Rio de Janeiro with the goal of achieving Olympic glory. Recently, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee unveiled the Olympic Village in Barra da Tijuca, which the thousands of athletes, coaches, officials, staff, and national delegations will call home during the 2016 Olympic Games.
Construction of the Olympic Village began in 2013 on a stretch of approximately 800,000 square meters of land in Barra da Tijuca, called Ilha Pura (Pure Island).
Strategically located, the site was considered ideal for the athletes’ village, being accessible to most of the major competition hubs, including the biggest Olympic site, Olympic Park, where three Carioca Arenas, the Main Press Centre, International Broadcast Centre, Futuro Arena and the Aquatic Stadium are located.
The athletes’ Olympic Village is comprised of a seven-condominium complex of 31 buildings up to 17-stories tall with a total of 3,604 apartments. The laundry list of amenities includes swimming pools, a park, a 24-hour restaurant, top-of-the-line fitness facilities, and a recreation room stocked with video games, musical instruments, and billiard and ping-pong tables.
Of course, to ensure that, in between competitions, athletes have a chance to enjoy a taste of the Carioca lifestyle, kiosks are also located throughout the village serving fruit juices, coconut water, açaí and even churrasco (Brazilian barbecue).
“Each Olympic village is a little bit of the city and the host country. Each has its own story,” says Mario Cilenti, the Director of the Olympic Village and veteran of six Olympic Games, “Beijing was perfect, everything worked well, but with a Chinese style. There were only two parallel streets, with several buildings. Here in Rio, we will have palm trees, a park, several pools, and kiosks.”
In addition to the more than ten thousand athletes, the Olympic Village will also house national delegations, coaches, doctors and other support staff for a total of up to 18,000 people living there during the Games.
There are expected to be another 13,000 people on the grounds at any one time during the two-week period, including volunteers, employees, and other service providers.
“We are doing all we can so that athletes don’t need to leave the village,” Cilenti says. “They can go compete and come straight back.”
To manage the largest Olympic Village in the history of the Games, Cilenti will employ a staff of over six hundred that also includes security and transportation. Three hundred buses will help transport the athletes to and from the Olympic Village.
By early July, five hundred police officers will be on hand to secure the grounds of the village in preparation for the athletes’ arrival.
The first delegations are scheduled to arrive at the Olympic Village on July 18th with the first athletes moving in soon after on July 24th.
“The Carioca spirit of the Village staff and volunteers will be the big difference, something that athletes will take home as fond memories of their stay in the Village.” Cilenti explains, “This warm spirit was not one of the highlights in London or Beijing because it is a cultural thing. Here it is something easy, that comes naturally and does not cost anything.”
The 2016 Rio Olympics will take place on August 5th to the 21st. It is the first Olympic Games to take place in South America.