POSTED: March 15th 2017
NewsUpdate

NEIL WILSON: The lessons of Rio 2016


THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Mark Adams, director of communications at the International Olympic Committee, excelled himself this week. He tweeted that the legacy of the Rio Olympic Games has "confounded the critics".

The man whose previous job was DComs to the World Economic Forum, another rich man's club, is fast becoming the Kellyanne Conway of sport, a master of spin to match The West Wing's Toby Ziegler. Orwell's Squealer would be proud of his proclamations.

The basis for Adams' claim was a press release by the Italian swimming pool construction company which provided the pools in Rio and which now is dismantling them for re-location.

Adams saw this as the "roll-out of many, many positive legacies of the Rio Olympic Games." In a previous tweet he listed these as "port, metro, hotels, jobs."

Sadly for him that tweet coincided with the revelation that the Olympic metro extension known as Ligne 4 is the subject of criminal investigation. Arrests have been made after the discovery that it cost 11 times its planned budget.

As for the Italian company's press release, deeper reading revealed that two of the dismantled temporary pools from the Games are being re-located to military bases, neither of which will be available to the public.

The pool for water polo will also not benefit the people of Rio. It is being re-located to the city of Manaus, 1,772 miles away in the Amazon rain forest.

And the pool in Rio which did open to the public after its conversion from the Olympic canoe slalom course at Deodoro, one of Rio's needier districts? Well, that closed within four months of the Games leaving the city.

And the rest of the legacy? The 31 17-storey apartment blocks that made up the Athletes Village has failed to sell to the luxury market as planned. Fewer than 300 of its 3,604 apartments are sold.

As for the Olympic Park, hub of the Games, is virtually derelict. When the city held an auction for the rights to administer it, there was not one bidder. The cost of maintenance is falling to the city.

That, remember, is a city whose incoming mayor told his council members at the start of this year that it was in crisis. "Spending is prohibited," he said.

So Adams' legacy of the Rio Olympic Games is not one that citizens of the city would recognize. Its spending went largely to rich men's pockets or to wealthy districts that are home to 5% of the 6.3 million population.

And the effect on Brazil's future Olympic prospects will be equally dramatic. The government has announced a 55% reduction in spending on elite sport in the build-up to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer cities want anything to do with the five-ringed circus? Rio does not offer an Olympic legacy. Only an Olympic lesson.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.


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