By Jayme Monsanto, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – On October 2nd the world’s attention was fixed on Copenhagen, Denmark, as Jaques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Rio de Janeiro had been chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games ahead of Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo.
The announcement ensured that Brazil will be the first country ever to host a South American Olympic Games, and Rio promises to be a great host.
To succeed in its mission and put on a truly memorable event, the cidade maravilhosa has a lot of improvements to make before the opening ceremony and with seven years to go until then, Federal and State bodies are already working side by side with the local Prefeitura in order to meet that end.
The first fruits of the partnership between the government and COB (Brazilian Olympic Committee) was the inauguration of the revitalization of the Mauá Pier in Centro. The Pier will be turned into a 30,000 square meter leisure center with restaurants, an amphitheater and a multipurpose arena.
Work began two weeks after the IOC chose Rio, and the haste of operations drew praise from the committee; “I would like to congratulate everyone. Brazil can be proud of what was achieved in Copenhagen. Rio de Janeiro is the host city that began work on organizing the Games most quickly, and we know that there is no time to lose over the next seven years,” said Gilbert Felli, Olympic Games director of the IOC.
The government is also investing heavily in new sporting talent for 2016. Last month President Lula, Mayor Eduardo Paes, COB President Carlos Arthur Nuzman and Minister of Sports Orlando Silva attended the inauguration ceremony of the Olympic Village of Mangueira.
The three hundred-capacity multi-purpose gymnasium cost R$1.1 million and will benefit around 6,000 kids from the Mangueira neighborhood. “It looks just like any other sports court, but this space will foster healthy and motivated young people and, who knows, perhaps players who will compete for a medal in the Rio 2016 Olympics” said President Lula.
The Olympic Village of Mangueira is only a small part of a bigger project called “Rio In Shape For The Olympics”, which will expand public access to sport in the run up to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The project was designed to encourage six to 16-year-old kids to practice sports by increasing the number of “Olympic Village” centers and other facilities where children showing outstanding performance will receive specific training and support. The project received a R$12 million investment, and its goal is to involve around 30,000 young people in the first phase, with classes three times a week at 600 locations across the city.
In 2016, rugby and golf will be part of the Olympic Games schedule for the first time ever. Carlos Arthur Nuzman, head of COB, said the city is ready to receive these somewhat alien sports for Brazil with rugby to be played in the São Januário Stadium (home of the Vasco da Gama soccer team), and the golf in Gávea or Itanhangá Golf Clubs, the decision resting with the International Golf Federation.
COB, along with the Prefeitura, also created a website called Transparência Olímpica, with the purpose of following the progress of all the work here for 2016. The website will help the Brazilian people monitor the use of the nation’s funds, and if the deadlines are being adhered to – something of great interest to the Cariocas wondering where their taxes will be going – and the first official progress report of the Rio 2016 Project will be presented to the IOC in February.