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The Real Olympic Legacy

The Real Olympic Legacy

Our World | On 30, Aug 2012

While the Australians and French begrudgingly admired the best ever Olympic games, delegates from one country looked on with much greater interest and what they saw, whilst fascinating, no doubt also caused a little fear. Brazil’s Olympic officials might have cheered their athletes, but they were also here to “look and learn”. Rio is no stranger to large events; let’s face it, every year two million people party hard at both their world famous carnival and New Year celebrations. It is a city that is used to hosting massive events.

However, Rio has set itself the incredible task of hosting not just one world class event, but two in the next few years. You’d think the Olympics would be more than enough for any country but Brazil is also holding the 2014 World Cup. Rio will be home to the final and some group matches as well as the main Olympic stadium just 2 years later. To quote a popular sporting idiom, “that is a big ask.”

I was lucky to visit Rio recently and saw for myself that there are some large hurdles to overcome if they are going to deliver these events. Infrastructure is a big issue with the lack of decent public transport making getting around difficult. Currently there are only two underground rail lines serving the sprawling population of 6.2 million, which means the city is frequently gridlocked.

If legacy was vital for London, it is the Holy Grail for Rio. Their Sport’s Minister recently stated; “The core focus of the two tournaments is the infrastructure legacy. The World Cup and Olympics give us a golden opportunity to invest and accelerate such projects.”

And invest they certainly are. A new underground line and dedicated bus lanes are being built to cut journey times by, reportedly, more than three-quarters. Plus a much needed, improved link from Rio’s main airport to the city will make a huge difference. Everywhere we went our hosts were keen to point out that new roads were being planned and hideous old concrete flyovers were to be demolished and replaced with new tunnels to ease congestion. Though whether they can achieve their ambitious plans remains to be seen, as both the Brazilian press and FIFA have had concerns about everything being ready on time. Regardless, it has accelerated the much needed change, which will benefit any of us who operate conferences and events there for clients.

In the last 10 years, Brazil’s economy has been on the up thanks to its agricultural output and massive oil reserves discovered in the Atlantic. Looks like those oil revenues will come in handy considering they plan to spend $14bn (£8.9bn) on the World Cup (including everything from stadiums, to road, rail and airport infrastructure), plus another $11.5bn on the Olympics. Makes the £9bn we spent on the London games look like a good deal!

Perhaps London’s most important legacy will be that it changed the goal posts establishing a new standard that all future Olympics will be about regeneration, renewal and investment creating lasting legacies. Maybe it’s not about what you do to host an Olympics but what staging the Olympics can do for your city – be a forceful catalyst for change. Our games were amazing, but changing the whole future of the games, that would be something else!

Sandra Collins, Events Team