POSTED: March 3rd 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: Rio 2016 still confident that all will be well on the night

Rio 2016 chief CArlos Nuzman met the press in London after the IOC EB in Lausanne © Getty Images
Rio 2016 chief CArlos Nuzman met the press in London after the IOC EB in Lausanne © Getty Images

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

(SFC) The widespread belief before the 2014 Fifa World Cup was that even if Brazil were to dazzle on the pitch, the organisation and logistics in the country would creak under the pressure of staging the world's second biggest sports event. In fact, the hosts were embarrassed on the field, losing their semi-final 7-1 to Germany but there were remarkably few problems off the field.

Compared to the Summer Games, staging the World Cup is relatively straightforward, only 32 countries, fewer than 1,000 players and just one sport and so there has been renewed scepticism even since 2014 that Rio de Janeiro will be able to cope with the Olympics.

This concern has escalated over whether the facilities would be built in time, the concern about money -- given the difficulties in the Brazilian economy-- the problems of pollution in the sea and how they would affect the sailing events and most recently the outbreak of the Zika virus.

But Carlos Nuzman, the President of the Organising Committee, did not seem unduly worried when he stopped off in London on his way back from Lausanne, where he had been making his presentation to the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Nuzman accepted that when Rio bid for the Summer Games in 2009, it was a different economic climate but he emphasised that cutbacks, such as using temporary structures and having fewer volunteers, were not significant for the welfare of the competitors, saying: "We are doing everything for the athletes." And he added : "We have a balanced budget."

Perhaps. But at the moment, there is a shortfall in ticket sales. Only 47 percent (3.1 million) of the tickets for the Olympics have been sold, albeit mostly in the more expensive seats, and fewer than 15 percent of tickets for the Paralympics, which begin on September 7. In a country of more than 180 million people that is not an impressive total, particularly when you compare it with London in 2012, which sold 10.99 million of the 11.03 million seats available for the two Games.

 However, Nuzman emphasised that many sports have already been sold out and a new campaign to market seats for the Paralympics was being launched. Apart from the need for the revenue from sales, the broadcasters do not like half-empty stands when they are showing events.

 Nuzman added: "Brazilians love to buy tickets at the last minute, like at the World Cup." The Olympic torch relay, which always generates enthusiasm in the host country, will visit 329 cities in Brazil after it has been lit in Olympia on April 21. But he said that even if seats were not sold, schoolchildren would not be admitted free to fill up the stands        

He attempted to reassure athletes over the Zika virus. Competitors would all be housed in air-conditioned rooms, which, provided the windows were kept closed, made the need redundant for having mosquito screens. In addition, all the Olympic venues are to be inspected daily for any stagnant water to minimise the risk to competitors.

 In the bay, off the city, there would be monthly monitoring until the end of April of pollution levels to meet the parameters recommended by the World Health Organisation, then weekly inspections until July and then daily during the Games themselves.

 The only delay in the building of venues was at the velodrome, where the construction company had been closed and the completion had been delayed by two weeks. But the tests events are going ahead as planned.

Perhaps the biggest question mark will be over the transport of athletes and visitors. Both the Metro Line, which is 90 percent completed and is set to open in July, and the VLT tram service, which becomes operative in April, were not in the original bid-book. However, there are fears of traffic jams because the city is notoriously difficult to move across swiftly.

 Nuzman's confidence is only partially reassuring. Usually though, an Olympic city manages to cope satisfactorily and occasionally triumphantly with staging of the biggest show on earth.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th 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 · Olympics · John Goodbody · Rio 2016

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.