Brazil is gearing up to host yet another international sporting event. The opening ceremony gets underway in a few hours and the eyes of the world will turn to Rio de Janeiro. If the World and Confederations Cups are anything to go by, these Olympic Games will run smoothly, despite the odd hiccup involving shoddy stadia and angry protestors. This is the ‘jeitinho brasileiro’ – the Brazilian way – at it’s finest: leave things until the last minute, but somehow manage to achieve decent results. As ever with Brazil, the situation is unpredictable. But what is the lowdown from Rio? Is the city ready for these Olympic Games?
Reports in the run up to these Games have not been promising. The media say that Rio is simply not ready: stadia behind schedule, the metro not running, contaminated water at the rowing and sailing venues. When you throw in everything else that has been happening in Brazil, such as the outbreak of the Zika virus, the tumbling price of the real, and Dilma Rousseff’s recent impeachment, the picture is an altogether gloomy one.
The impeachment of Brazil’s president so close to an event as big as the Olympics is particularly exasperating. After all, a country like the UK would never be so irresponsible as to make a crazy and inadvisable political decision without having some semblance of a plan in place as to what to do next. A new president is just one of many changes that the country has undergone in the last two years, since I was last in Brazil.
It may be obvious, but the Olympic Park has been built since I was last here. And it looks rather spectacular. The velodrome, aquatics centre, gymnastics arena, tennis stadium and more sit proudly in front of a mountainous backdrop, with the Atlantic Ocean just a short way away. An enormous beach volleyball arena dominates Copacabana beach, in which will undoubtedly be the most scenic beach volleyball court of all time. Despite reports then, it seems that the venues are good to go.
The much talked about metro line that extends from Ipanema in the south of Rio, out to the Olympic Park in Barra, was inaugurated earlier this week. The organisers claim this as a success, but it will not be open to the public until after the Games. Despite this setback, the transport news is good. In a city that is plagued by long traffic delays, new bus routes and the glorious Olympic lanes are alleviating delays for some competitors and supporters. There is arguably nothing more satisfying than racing past standstill traffic in your accredited car. As an Olympic driver, I should know.
Other successes include the deployment of forces. There is a huge police and military presence. Brazil is determined to make people feel safe and to ensure that security problems don’t overshadow the Games. The volunteers are plentiful and working hard to make everything run smoothly. I for one am impressed. It is a level of organisation that I did not expect from Brazil and my early assessment is that so far, everything is so good. There may be the odd problem with some loose cables or dodgy plumbing in the athlete’s village, but we can be fairly certain that Brazil will manage to make these Games a success in it’s own Brazilian way.