Now that the Rio2016 Olympics are done & the Olympians & fans are heading home, it’s time to reflect on how it worked out for Rio de Janeiro. When I arrived in Rio a year ago, the prognostications were not good. The Globo newspaper media empire spelled out 5 Grand (large) Obstacles:
- Metro/subway-the new subway line which was being built to provide transportation to & from the Olympic park was planned for completion only a month before the games were to begin, a small window to correct problems, if required. Then a few months ago, that window was further reduced to just 5 days before the Olympics start, making any last minute changes of any consequence impossible. Remarkably, the subway opened, took passengers to the events, & was little problem @ all.
- H2O-much has been made of the quality of the water in the lagoon and Guanabarra Bay where the rowing & sailing events were held, respectively. The goal was to clean 80% of the water by the time the games begin, but sanitation only advanced to clean 50% of the waste being dumped into the water supply. That’s much more than was in the past, but short of the goal of 80%. I only read of 1 Belgian Olympic sailor who became ill after falling in & possibly ingesting some water, hardly an epidemic, & arguably within statistical norms. While the water quality is still @ an unacceptable level, it didn’t result in any calamities @ the Olympics.
- 4, & 5 Stadia for cycling, rowing, & track & field: were behind schedule, but completed on time without incident.
Since that article was published, a few other issues arose which impacted Rio2016 significantly:
- zika virus: despite not rising to the levels of recent past epidemics & being out-of-season by the time the Olympics arrived, zika was deemed a threat to the health of all who dared to come to Brazil to watch the games live. There was no outbreak & zika seemed to be a non-issue during the games.
- political crisis: President Dilma Rousseff was impeached, which created lots of political stability & the threat of uprisings, etc. during the Olympics. While Brazil will continue to be in a holding pattern until a new president is elected in 2018, there have been no major repercussions from this calamity.
- economic crisis: as a result of the political crisis, Brazil’s economy has taken a nose dive, as indicated by a fall in the currency, the Real, of 30% in 6 months, from R$3.2/US$ to R$4.1/$US. investment has fallen, & unemployment has spiked. This made financing the completion of the projects for the games questionable, but again, all venues were completed on time.
True to form, the Brazilians pulled it off, by cramming @ the last minute, but they got it done. The question is “What will be the long-term outcome of the Rio2016 Olympic games?” Will Rio become another economic success propelled by the Olympics, like Barcelona & Seoul, or create a lot of white elephants, as in Beijing or Montreal, or even worse, lead to an economic downfall, as has been hypothesized about Athens, Greece. London took the Olympic opportunity to rehabilitate an underdeveloped part of town to rejuvenate it & make that area a desirable place to live. When I lived in Munich, they left the Olympic housing as residences for college students. Rio will leave a different legacy. While the subway extension & rejuvenation of the Praca Maua port area will benefit all of the population, the Olympic village is being converted into luxury condominiums for sale to the highest bidder. Many of the venues were temporary structures, probably being deconstructed already as we speak. The economic development organization of the Rio city government, Rio Negocios, held a series of events highlighting different industries in & around Rio, but I think they were probably disappointed with the international level of interest in their events. The aftermath of the 2014 World Cup does not bode well. New stadia now stand empty & a number of infrastructure projects were never completed, in some cases creating risks with what does remain.
I enjoyed being in Rio while the games were taking place: see pix:
- Olympic Torch Relay: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36706621@N00/albums/72157671949161326
- Olympic Beach Volleyball: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36706621@N00/albums/72157672031703466
- Olympic Truce Foundation event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36706621@N00/albums/72157671258327330
- Rio Parque Olympique: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36706621@N00/albums/72157671608415911
- Women’s Olympic triathlon: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36706621@N00/albums/72157669608162033
- Presidential Delegation visit to Corcovado: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36706621@N00/albums/72157669665308624
…& I hope that Rio recognizes many positive benefits as a result of hosting the games. I’m just skeptical that enough change will have taken place for the rest of the world to appreciate what a beautiful place this can be.