By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The road for Rio’s post-Olympic plans continues to be rocky as the final day for companies to submit bids to take over management of the immense Olympic Park site in Barra da Tijuca came and went on Wednesday, November 30th.
According to local news reports, by Thursday, December 1st, only one company had submitted a bid to manage the facility, Sanerio Construction, who, much to the dismay of city officials, has had several conflicts with the city in the past and is currently under bankruptcy.
With the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics now a distant memory, for the past several months Rio de Janeiro city officials have been frantically searching for suitors to take over management of the 300-acre Olympic Park, which houses a total of nine venues, including three separate Carioca arenas, the Main Press Center, International Broadcast Center, the Future Arena and the Aquatic Stadium.
The last event held at the site, the largest of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic competition hubs, was the finals of Wheelchair Rugby held on the last day of the 2016 Rio Olympic Paralympic Games on September 18th, 2016. Since then, the city, already in severe financial crisis, has been managing the site using the same contractors who built it, under short-term contracts until a long-term manager could be found.
Even though the city had finally received the Sanerio bid before Wednesday’s deadline, according to reports, the bid was deficient as Sanerio, a company already under bankruptcy protection, had not submitted a required security deposit of R$3.8 million, which would be returned to the company once the contract is signed.
City officials have other reasons to remain skeptical as Sanerio Construction is the same company that had laid down the concrete for the BRT Transoeste bus corridor, which opened in 2012. Soon after its opening, the path was littered with bumps and holes, prompting a squabble between Sanerio and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes. Mayor Paes complained the work was sloppy, while Sanerio blamed city officials for rushing completion of the job in time for the 2012 municipal elections.
An Olympic Park bidding commission has indicated that it has given Sanerio eight days to correct the deficiencies in its bid.
The future Olympic Park manager will oversee and maintain the site for the next 25 years, which, as it was just announced last month, will include next year’s Rock in Rio music festival.
More immediate, though, the company who wins the bid to manage the site will be responsible for transforming and dismantling the many structures used during the Rio 2016 Games. The Carioca arenas, where Olympic basketball, judo, and wrestling events were held, are set to be converted to sports training facilities. The Future Arena, site of the handball competitions, will be demolished and the materials salvaged to be used in the construction of four new municipal schools.
Also, the manager will have to dismantle the Olympic Aquatics Center, site of many historic moments from this past Games including the final competition of American swimmer Michael Phelps, and install the two pools in water parks to be built in underprivileged communities in the city.