By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In exactly one year, on August 5, 2016 the Olympic Games will begin in Rio de Janeiro. Currently, the city is in full speed preparing for the biggest sporting event in the world, with most of the competition facilities not yet ready, but on schedule according to organizers.
The one year countdown will not only be celebrated in a music show tonight and Cultural Marathon over the weekend, but was already marked by the beginning of a series of test events, bringing the Olympic spirit to the Carioca residents during the months of August and September. Seventeen events in total will be held in the Cidade Maravilhosa by the end of the year, some of them testing the Olympic facilities.
The Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca will be the center of most Olympic activities and is 82 percent ready according to Cidade Olímpica. Almost finished are the three sports halls called Arena 1, 2 and 3, while the ‘Arena do Futuro’ (Arena of the Future) is 74 percent ready. The arena is a temporary construction for the handball and goalball competitions and will be transformed into four schools after the Olympic Games. It is planned to be ready by the end of 2015.
The tennis center, also located in the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca, is only 68 percent ready at the moment, according to organizers, but has a finishing deadline in the third semester of 2015, which seems unlikely. However, there is a test event planned at the venue, the ‘Aquece Rio Masters Cup’ in December of this year.
The nearby Athletes’ Park, which will be transformed into the high-class condominium ‘Ilha Pura’ after the Games, is in good building shape and almost ninety percent ready. Authorities are certain that the apartments can even be delivered early.
While installations in Zona Sul (South Zone), as well as the Maracanã and Sambódromo are pre-existing or temporary, the Deodoro Olympic zone is a cause for concern. The mountain bike, BMX and canoeing courses are almost eighty percent ready, but the Velodrome has tight deadlines. It is only sixty percent ready at the moment and had a finishing deadline of 3rd semester 2015. Yet, the Rio authorities promise it will be ready in time.
More worrying than single installations are the fact that several sports do not yet have a fixed locale for their competitions. Organizers discuss to move hockey from Barra to Deodoro and use the Pentathlon field for Rugby Sevens as well.
“We have to analyze the scenario. In 2009 Brazil was stable, rising, and today there is another economic situation,” Rodrigo Garcia, Director of Competitions told Exame.
Aquatic Polo will not be played at the Julio De Lamare Aquatic Park at the Maracanãzinho, as construction has been delayed and Rio’s government will not come up with the additional R$60 million needed for the facility. The competition will likely be moved to the Olympic Park in Barra, but another pool for R$30 million will need to be constructed there.
The Engenhão stadium, which will host the athletics competition, had problems in the structure of its roof ahead of the 2014 World Cup. While the stadium has been partially reopened for football (soccer) matches, it is unclear when the rest of the structural work will be finished, as the July deadline has already passed.
The biggest controversy, fueled by a new report by Associated Press last week, will remain the water quality in the city. Early on, authorities have admitted that the eighty percent cleanup pledge of Guanabara Bay will not be met.
According to Exame, the water treatment had been at 41 percent last year and currently stands at only 49 percent. Nevertheless, Governor Pezão is confident to reach at least 65 percent within the next year.