By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – In the aftermath of the IOC’s historic decision to award the Olympic Games to a South American country for the first time, the city’s planners and the country’s athletes and trainers have begun to mobilize, forming strategies to ensure success and glory in 2016.
With the city set to be divided into four main zones of activity, the augmentation of transport infrastructure to link the key locations with Olympic facilities becomes a major priority. Copacabana’s ‘zone’ will stretch to include the Lagoa and Glória Marina, but the famous beach will of course be the focus for the triathlon, swimming marathon and beach volleyball.
The Maracanã is to be closed at the end of the year to undergo a total overhaul in time for the World Cup 2014. The Engenhão stadium currently used by Botafogo’s football team will be used for Athletics, and the new-look Sambódromo will witness the finish of the Marathon.
Barra’s modern infrastructure will see the greatest concentration of sports including basketball, swimming, tennis and judo, with the Riocentro events complex converted for sports and the current site of the Autodromo set to be redesigned to house the Olympic Park.
Finally, Deodoro in the northwest of the city, probably the least-known area, will be given an infrastructure boost with a new sports arena and horseriding venue, both of which will be unveiled at the 2011 World Military Games.
From an athlete’s point of view, the seven years between now and the Games provides ample time to rear some fresh talent, and after a fairly muted medal showing in Beijing last year, Brazil will be looking to capitalize on the home advantage that historically has made such an impact on medal tallies.
From the 2004 Games in Athens to those in Beijing in 2008, China’s medal tally increased from 63 to 100, while Greece bagged a 33 percent increase in Gold medals when they hosted the Games after Sydney. For their part, Australia improved on their 41 medals in Atlanta 1996 by taking 58 when competing at home in 2000.
Great Britain are also currently putting the finishing touches to their efforts to improve on a shock fourth-place finish in the final medal table in Beijing that reflected the huge investment in sports there since it was announced London would host the 2012 Games.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee has proposed an Olympic Training Center to generate this success, focusing on less popular sports such as table tennis, archery and boxing, as well as the more traditionally popular tennis, judo and water sports.
The plan is to centralize nationwide training from a Rio headquarters, developing and refining training with a scientific approach and ultra-modern facilities to compete with the very best in the world. The trainees will be invited from various disciplines, beginning with those displaying the best potential in their field.
Few of the successes from Beijing will still be around to represent their country in 2016, but one of the gold medallists, César Cielo Filho, who grabbed fame with his fifty-meter freestyle swimming win, will still be in his prime at the age of 29 when Brazil hosts and hopes to win again in front of his home fans.
Other current stars such as footballer Martha who led the women’s team to silver and Rodrigão who also got a silver medal along with the rest of the men’s volleyball team will almost certainly be too old, but their legacy of sporting successes and the new training centers should ensure an even greater crop of young talent will be ready to break the records for Brazil in 2016.