By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The first 2016 Olympics venue to be opened has passed its debut examination with flying colors. The Athletes’ Park served as the “Cidade do Rock,” hosting the 2011 Rock in Rio music festival last week, and the Rio 2016 Olympic Organizing Committee can breathe a collective sigh of relief that it hosted 700,000 people over the span of nine days without any major problems.
But of course, the Olympics will be a far sterner test as guests from around the globe flock to the Cidade Maravilhosa in their millions.
In 2016, the Athletes’ Park will not hold any actual sporting events, instead serving as the rest and relaxation spot for participating athletes. But it will be a major part of Rio’s Olympic Village, in conjunction with the Olympic Park and Riocentro Exhibition Center.
Travel to the Rock in Rio festival was facilitated by extra buses running to-and-from Barra da Tijuca, an area notoriously difficult to reach due to the distance and speed with which the area has expanded in recent years. Currently without a metro station, the only way to arrive is by car or bus, with roads subsequently becoming numbingly congested.
There have long been intentions to extend the city’s metro system to Barra, and last week Rio’s Transport Secretary Julio Lopes revealed revised plans to extend the Metro. The “Line Four” will run from Ipanema to Barra and should be completed by December 15th, 2015.
The plans have been welcomed by local residents, many of whom face up to a two hour commute every day if they work in the city center.
“We conducted a survey in the apartment blocks of those using buses and 85 percent of them go to Copacabana, Ipanema and Centro, from the seafront [in Barra],” said Delair Dumbrosock, president of the Community Council of Barra da Tijuca.
In total, an extra 14km of track will be laid, with the city investing R$5 billion in the project. While the work should be finished by mid December 2015, tests will then be run to check if the new line is safe, and it should be open to the public by March or April 2016.
The new Olympic attention has meant a boom in development, and Barra is feverishly trying to keep up with demand. According to Riotur, the city’s tourism board, ten new hotels will be built in the area in time for the Olympics.
Of all new hotel rooms available for the Olympics, 42 percent will be in Barra, 36 percent in Zona Sul (South Zone), fifteen percent in Centro with the remaining seven percent in Zona Norte (North Zone). Barra will host around half of Olympic events, as well as the Main Press Center and International Broadcast Center.