Olympic Games – And now it is Rio’s turn – Rio 2016

After the Greek and Olympic anthem, as part of the closing rituals of the Games, the Brazilian participation in the closing ceremony began. Jacques Rogge passed the Olympic flag into the hands of the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, and then, the Brazilian anthem was performed and the Brazilian national flag flown. The Olympic Stadium in London became green and yellow by light effects.

Brazilian carnival icon, street sweeper, Renato Sorriso entered the centre of the lawn, pursued by a British security guard. Coerced, Sorriso began teaching the security guard how to dance the samba. The sound of the samba took over the party. In the next act, an artistic group representing the Indians of Brazil were presented. Rapper B Negão and Seu Jorge also attended the performance. Walking along an imitation of the Copacabana pedestrian area, Marisa Monte sang ‘Aquele abraço’ (That Embrace) of Guilberto Gil.

At the moment that the spotlight on London is moved to the next Olympic host, Rio strives to show the world that the preparations for this event are on schedule. But the long list of obligations that the city has until 2016 make the four years which rest seem short. The BBC took a look at the actual situation of the preparations.

Rio will host the first Olympic Games in South America – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

Mayor Eduardo Paes has been stressing that all projects with deadlines over three years have already started, and lists projects that have already been delivered – as the Sambódromo, which reform was completed before the carnival of 2012, and the Athletics Park, which was ready to house the last Rock in Rio event.

Sailing competitions will also be held at the Marina da Glória, next to the Parque do Flamengo, officially Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, but popularly known also as Aterro do Flamengo – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe/BBC Brasil

The number of construction sites in the city reflects the advances in several areas: in Maracanã, in the port area, the metro station which will come into the neighbourhood of Barra and the BRT, the bus lanes being built to expand public transportation in the city.

Construction sites in the stadium Maracanã – Photo Sarah Robbins-BBC

But some works have tight deadlines, such as the subway, expected to be ready in the first half of 2016.

The Olympic project still faces major setbacks with time-schedules which don’t fit reality and which expose the fragility of the planning.

Parque do Flamengo, officially Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, but popularly known simply as Aterro do Flamengo, is on the verge of the Guanabara bay – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

The main facilities for the Games are concentrated in the Olympic Park, which will be built on land belonging to the Autódromo de Jacarepaguá. The construction works, which will take about three and a half years, were initiated in July.

The Racecourse Autódromo Jacarepaguá is being demolished to make way for the Olympic Park. For years the place hosted the Grand Prix Formula 1 – Photo: BBC

The project is initiated but without an answer to two major issues. The demolition of the old racecourse is conditional to the construction of a new racetrack in Deodoro.
But for decades the designated area was intended to be used as a military training field by the Army, as was revealed in June. The state prosecutor is studying the release of the area for construction, taking into consideration environmental and security issues of the area.

Deodoro will stage seven Olympic competitions (Equestrian, Cycling – Mountain Bike and BMX, Modern Pentathlon, Shooting, Canoeing – Slalom and Fencing) and three Paralympics (Shooting, Equestrian and Fencing in Wheelchair) – Photo: Brazilian Olympic Committee

The Eastern Military Command (CML) states that the civilian use of the area will require the prior decontamination of the land, where soldiers learned to handle mines and hand grenades.

Located in the West Zone of Rio, the Deodoro complex houses the largest concentration of military barracks in Brazil, with more than 60,000 men – Photo: Brazilian Olympic Committee

As with so many large scale projects in Brazil the authorities think they can bypass the social issue. It isn’t a surprise that the construction of the Olympic Park also touches on social issues, as the project as designed requires the removal of Vila Autódromo, a favela of about 500 families, which are resisting removal and found support from social movements and scholars.

“We have every right on this area, we are here for over 40 years and we have papers to prove it”, says Altair Guimaraes, representative of the local residents’ association.

Part of the installations built for the 2007 Pan American Games in the region of Barra da Tijuca, will be integrated into the new Olympic Park – Photo: BBC

Guimarães doesn’t want to be resettled. In his backyard, he raises chickens and plant pineapple, something that would be impossible in the housing being offered.

“The Olympics do not have to remove anyone. That’s what the mayor likes to do, to show the governments out there that Brazil can do things differently. They can’t do this with our community”.

This site is used for cycling, running and exercise by residents of the neighborhoods of Flamengo, Botafogo and Glória – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

At the end of this week, residents of Vila Autódromo will deliver a proposal to Mayor Eduardo Paes presenting arguments for the permanence and urbanization of the community. The proposal is developed with the support of universities.

Bicycle path in Flamengo Park. The park extends from Airport Santos Dumont to the beach of Botafogo – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

“The plan shows that there is no need to remove”, says Carlos Vainer, professor of the Institute for Research and Urban and Regional Planning from UFRJ (IPPUR / UFRJ), who helped design the project.

“There are viable alternatives to urbanize that area. Removal will be much more expensive and could only be explained by the desire to make a social cleansing of the area”, he says.

The Stadium Maracanã will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Rio, as well as football matches. The stadium was renovated for the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013 and is now again upgraded for the World Cup in 2014 – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

Vainer is one of the supporters of the Popular Committee of the World Cup and the Olympics, created by social movements and civil society groups to monitor the progress of projects related to mega events. He criticizes the lack of a “democratic debate” and says that the Olympic project is being developed without the participation of society. Something denied by the Mayor of Rio.

The Olympic Games in Rio were announced in October 2009. The city won the bid based on a project with an initial budget estimated at BRL 28.2 billion (USD 15 billion).

The Sambódromo, the site of the annual parade of the samba schools during Carnival, should serve as the finish line for the marathon and also house the Olympic events in archery – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

Since then, projects have undergone modifications and been enhanced as they were leaving the drawing board. Some also were more expensive, but the city has postponed the release of an overall budget, which would set a parameter from which to evaluate the evolution of costs.

The harbour area is being renovated and the works include a new transit system that includes construction of two new roads and tunnels. The new system is to increase the traffic capacity in the region with 40%. The tunnel seen here was named after Morro da Saúde, the neighbouring community – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

Many residents of Rio are afraid that the costs of the projects end up sky-high or represent a waste of public resources, as with the stadium Maracanã. The stadium was renovated for the Pan American Games in 2007 and is now being practically rebuilt to suit the requirements of the FIFA. The initial budget more than tripled, reaching today some BRL 900 million (USD 450 million).

The government of Rio de Janeiro says that 62% of the works have been completed at the Maracanã stadium. The budget is BRL 859 million (USD 430 million) and more than 5,550 people work in two shifts of ten hours each, seven days a week – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

The Velódromo, also built for the Pan American Games, also is controversial. The building does not meet the requirements of the International Olympic Committee and the project for the Games in 2016 provided for the reconstruction. After a public outcry against the demolition, Mayor Eduardo Paes vowed to find a solution to use the existing building and said the demolition is “unacceptable”.

Near the city centre, the Sambódromo is neighbour to the communities of Catumbi and Estácio – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe/BBC Brasil

Paes arrived in Rio on Monday with the Olympic flag after receiving it at the closing ceremony of the London Games. The Olympic symbol meets a city that faces major infrastructure problems, especially in the public transportation sector, but also in sanitation and housing.

Aerial view of the Copabacana and Leme beaches (right), located in the southern zone of Rio de Janeiro. During the Olympics and the 2016 Paralympics various competitions will be held here, such as athletics, beach volleyball, rowing, sailing and triathlon – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

The city showed an insufficient hotel network, during the Rio +20 summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June. The hotels were crowded and the prices soared.

Aerial view of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a prime area of ​​the city of Rio de Janeiro, close to the beaches of Ipanema (right, top) and Leblon. The site will host competitions in rowing and canoeing – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

According to the Municipal Urban Planning Bureau, Rio is expected to gain 106 hotels extra by 2016, mostly concentrated in Barra, near the main Olympic venues.

A statue of Saint Barbara, patron saint of labourers who work in tunnels, is seen next to the Túnel da Saúde, part of the new transit system being built in the harbour area – Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

For Carlos Vainer, the arrival of the Olympic flag should trigger reflection rather than celebration.

Workers working in the subway tunnels which will reach the region of Barra da Tijuca – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

“This date means that we have four years to radically change a project that is segregated and elitist, and deploying a more democratic project”, Vainer says.

The park Aterro do Flamengo was built in the 1960s, and will serve as a venue for cycling competitions and racewalking. Locals are already practicing exercises on this site – Photo: Marizilda Cruppe / BBC Brasil

But first we have the World Football Cup 2014. To give you an impression about that progress of the works, stadiums, infrastructure, airports, public transport etc, read my article: “World Cup 2014 – Brazil needs a kick in the ass. Right or wrong?

Source among others: Júlia Dias Carneiro and Quentin Sommerville, BBC Brasil in Rio de Janeiro