POSTED: August 12th 2012

JOHN GOODBODY: How can Rio follow London?

The world famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro will provide a festive background / Rio 2016
The world famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro will provide a festive background / Rio 2016

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

August 12 - After many Olympics, people ask: ”How can the next city follow that?” There are so sorry just to leave. There are exceptions. Few relished Munich in 1972 because of the murder of the members of the Israeli team. The 1980 and 1984 Games were spoilt by boycotts, Atlanta by both poor organisation and rampant commercialism and Athens by the worry, eventually dispelled, that the venues would be ready on time.

But the joy of Sydney and the sheer efficiency of Beijing for instance were remembered with either affection or admiration. London has certainly set a new benchmark for the Olympics, not because of any particularly grandiose scheme but because of how the public has embraced the Games. Only perhaps Sydney has approached London in such widespread enthusiasm for the Olympics.

The city, with its renowned historical sites contrasting with its role as the centre of world finance, has been taken over by the Olympics: packed venues, helpful volunteers and a surprising lack of transport problems.

Eduardo Paes, the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, who stage 2016 Summer Olympics, told Boris Johnson: ”You just did the greatest Olympics ever. Everyone is looking at London. This was already the greatest city and it became an even greater city so Rio de Janeiro will try to follow you. You did so well that we are going to have lots of trouble, lots of work but we are going to deliver great things in 2016 in Rio.”

What has surprised many people has been the ease of getting round the capital because London is notorious for its narrow streets and consequent congestion. But many people have follow the advice to stay away from the centre and not use their cars. Deliveries to shops and offices have been arranged during the night so as to lessen the traffic during the day. Huge efforts have been made by the transport organisers to ensure that travelling out to the Olympic Park in the east of the city has been relatively quick and free from stress. Armies of volunteers have shepherded the huge crowds to one of the several railway stations which are close to the main venues.

Like every Games, Rio will also face challenges with transport, but the biggest difficulty will be the vast amount of detail that is necessary to put on an Olympic Games. Britain is used to staging big sports events, such as Wimbledon, the London Marathon, the Open Golf Tournament, the European Football Championship, Diamond League athletics meetings  and the Commonwealth Games.

This is why Brazil will benefit from hosting the 2014 World Cup. It can learn lessons from an event that is much easier to put on because it is consists of only one sport.

One distinct advantage that Brazil will have over Athens and Sydney is the sheer manpower that it can call on, since Brazil has a population of almost 200 million, far more than Greece or Australia.

It will also be helped by the ‘Transfer of Knowledge’, which the International Olympic Commitee has set up  to aid future host cities by using the experience of those countries which have staged Games in the past. As the years have gone by, the knowledge has become increasingly refined.

However, for a successful Olympics what London has shown is that apart from the need for efficiency, there must be a real atmosphere of joy during the Olympics. This was often absent in Beijing. Brazil is a country famous for its ability to celebrate. And this is what it must certainly do in 2016.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.

Keywords · John Goodbody · London 2012 · Rio 2016 · summer Games

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