By Jack Whibley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With all the FIFA football (soccer) developments happening, one might forget that on August 5, 2016 the Games of the 31st Olympiad will begin in Rio. Some 10,500 athletes will compete in 28 sports, in 35 venues spread across four Olympic Zones: the Barra Zone, Copacabana Zone, Maracanã Zone, and Deodoro Zone, and here is a review of the layout.
The Barra Zone, in Barra da Tijuca, will be the athletes’ home and the heart of the games as the Olympic Village will be situated there.
The village will cover an area the size of a hundred soccer fields and Mario Cilenti, the Olympic and Paralympic Village Director, says, “It’s a town with gigantic sizes of everything. It’s all multiplied by 18,000. Think of a bed, it’ll be 18,000 beds. Think of a pillow, it’ll be 18,000 pillows.”
Fifteen venues will be located in the Barra Zone and fourteen sports will be on show, including gymnastics, aquatics and track cycling. After the games the Olympic Training Center will remain, providing part of the Games’ legacy.
Golf will also be played in Barra, while not everyone’s idea of an Olympic sport, golf is making its comeback in 2016 and will be played on a new course in the Reserva Marapendi (Marapendi Environmental Protection Area). After the games, the course will become Rio’s first publicly accessible golf course.
The Copacabana Zone will take in venues stretching from the Lagoa (Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon) through Copacabana and round to Flamengo Park and Guanabara Bay. The Lagoa will host the rowing and sprint canoeing competitions.
Copacabana’s beach will act as the backdrop to beach volleyball, while Copacabana Fort will be the home of marathon swimming and triathlon. Road Cycling is set to start and finish in Flamengo Park, where one of the many temporary venues will be built.
The Maracanã Zone will host the opening and closing ceremonies in the Maracanã Stadium. The João Havelange Olympic Stadium (also known as Engenhão) will be the home of track and field athletics, assuming it has re-opened by 2016, following its abrupt closure in March due to concerns about the structural safety of its roof.
Also in the Maracanã Zone, the 600-meter straight of the infamous Carnival Sambódromo will allow 30,000 spectators to see the start and finish of the athletics marathon.
Much of the work for the fourth zone in the West of the city, the Deodoro Zone, was carried out for the 2007 Pan American Games. New venues are being added for 2016 as this zone will host seven different sports: equestrian, cycling (BMX and mountain bike), modern pentathlon, shooting, slalom canoeing, hockey and fencing.
Representatives of ten National Olympic Committees recently visited venues in three of the four zones. Daishun Wei, Secretariat Director of the Chinese Olympic Committee, praised the visit, “This was an excellent initiative of the Organising Committee. Serious and professional work.”
“I am sure you will stage excellent games.” Mr. Wei added that he was delighted with Barra Olympic Park, “More than half of the sport disciplines will be concentrated in Barra, which is very good.”
Local residents though are feeling the impact in Barra, as construction and development grinds forward. Angela Almeida, a Barra resident for the past eight years, tells The Rio Times, “The usual heavy traffic is not only in rush hours, but all day long now. This was expected, considering we are living in a big construction site.”