By Chris Kudialis, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Less than two years away from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, construction continues across the city and its four main competition areas. According to Rio’s Olympic organizing committee (IOC), nearly 55 percent of Olympic-related construction is now complete, across four main zones and connected by major infrastructure works.
“With two years to go until the Games, we have concluded the planning phase and are now entering the operational preparation phase, when the competition structures begin to take shape and we get closer to the population,” said Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman in a statement.
The central location for most of the 2016 Games, Barra da Tijuca will also be the home of the Olympic Village, where athletes are lodged. Construction on all nine proposed Olympic venues in Barra has begun, and the foundation and installation of basic infrastructure – such as water, gas, electricity and drainage networks – is complete.
This month, metal floor structures and new roofs are scheduled for installment, says Alexandre Techima, Rio 2016’s Infrastructure Integration Director. “The Olympic Park works are gathering speed,” said Techima. “All the venue foundation works have been started and the constructors are meeting the scheduled targets.”
The second largest of the four Olympic Zones, Deodoro is scheduled to host eleven sports, including equestrian, shooting and mountain biking competitions. Of the nine projected Deodoro facilities, three previously installed venues were used in the 2007 Pan American games and 2011 Military Games. Construction broke ground on new Deodoro venues on July 3, and is projected to be finished by the first half of 2016.
The Copacabana Zone is the site for Olympic beach volleyball, triathlon, rowing, canoeing and sailing competitions among others, and played host to Rio 2016’s first test event from August 2nd through Aug 9th. Sailors from across the world tested the waters of Guanabara Bay last week in what was considered an overall successful event, despite criticism of extreme water pollution.
Darren Bundock, a two-time Olympic medalist, told Australian press he had originally thought reports of the stinking pollution in Guanabara Bay, which has been described as a “huge sewer”, were media hype — before colliding with a submerged object and dodging mounds of rubbish during races. “Yesterday was the first time we really raced in an out-going tide and dodging rubbish was the order of the day,” he said.
There is better news in other areas though, including the future host of the opening and closing ceremonies, Maracanã Stadium which is one of the main Olympic sites in the Maracanã Zone. The João Havelange Olympic Stadium, known also as Engenhão, will host track and field events.
Of the four Olympic Zones, Maracanã is the least in need of construction, with its two stadiums scheduled to host the majority of its events. Closed in March 2013 because of integrity issues in the construction of its roof, Engenhão is scheduled to reopen by 2015.
The Transcarioca Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, connecting Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport to Barra da Tijuca, is complete according to authorities, and started operating on June 2nd. The 39 kilometer (23.33 mile) expressway runs through 27 Rio neighborhoods and is designed to reduce travel time to Barra by sixty percent, according to Rio 2016’s official website.
In June, the first tracks were laid for Rio’s newest metro line, Metro Line 4, linking Barra da Tijuca to Ipanema. With six new stations – Jardim Oceânico, São Conrado, Gávea, Antero de Quental, Jardim de Alah and Nossa Senhora da Paz – the newest Metro Line will link with Lines 1 and 2, making travel from Barra to Ipanema possible in 15 minutes, and Barra to Rio Central in 34 minutes. Line 4 is scheduled to begin operation in 2016.
Also part of the Rio 2016 preparation, the Port Zone infrastructure development is underway. The Via Binário tunnel, stretching nearly a mile, is 77 percent complete according to Rio 2016 media advisor Adriana Moreira, and will be finished in November. The tunnel will become part of newly-constructed Binário do Porto road.
Running parallel to Via Binário is the 4.25 mile Expressa Road Tunnel, connecting the city center with major routes Aterro do Flamengo, Avenida Brasil and the Rio-Niterói bridge. The tunnel, about 1.9 miles long, is 54 percent complete, says Moreira, and should be ready for use by December 2015.