December 22, 2014
P.A. Games, then Olympics
The problems confronting host city Rio de Janeiro
LONDON — International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president John Coates called Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games “the worst I have ever seen.” His committee also got nervous earlier this year and although it was officially denied, there were conversations about a possible plan B which included asking London, which put on the last 2012 Games whether they could do it again. The request may have been a bit premature with two years to go, but the IOC now has the experience of delay in preparations after this year’s soccer World Cup which finally went off better than expected.
With exactly two years to go for the Olympics, London had completed 60 percent of the preparations, while Rio only 10 percent. The trouble with London now is that some of the installations which serve no useful purpose have already been dismantled or altered, while flats in the Olympic Village have already been given to people with low incomes. What would urge the Rio hosts to speed up is that they will be staging the Pan-American Games next year which need many of the installations also used for the Olympic Games.
There were street riots before and during this year’s World Cup and they are likely to be repeated before and during the Olympics. Government officials are trying to persuade people that an announced US$11 billion budget is almost all for infrastructure projects for transport, urban development, roads, railway lines, etc., which will be mostly used for the Olympic Games, but would have been constructed anyway. Yet it appears that some of this budget is being transferred to the US$3.1 billion budget of the Rio Olympic organizing committee. So far, only 20 percent of this money comes from sponsors. So what’s new? A study shows that since 1960 every Olympic Games has overrun its budget, which eventually has to be paid by the host city’s tax payers.
International federations of 18 sports have complained about installations. Hockey meanwhile has found them alright which is perhaps because the sport is in constant fear of being dropped from the Olympic programme. Federations of water sports yachting, rowing and canoeing certainly have a point however. Guanabara Bay is completely polluted. Dead fish and untreated human waste float on the surface, among other things, and water analysis shows that it is dangerous even to touch. Pollution of the River Plate water was one of the few bad points against Buenos Aires when the city bid for the Olympic Games finally won by Athens (which really had been a forgone conclusion). While they are working on water purification, there seems to be no positive result. The Pan-American Games are only a year away and although nothing has been said, the three mentioned water sports may have to be transferred to another venue.
Opening and closing ceremonies will be at the Maracanã stadium which was ready for this year’s Soccer World Cup. But the smaller athletics stadium, the focal point of Olympic Games, has had roof problems and repair was due to take two years. Even if work was on schedule — and there have been delays due to strikes — it may not be fit to use for next year’s Pan-Am Games.
Strange Golf history
Golf, making its return to the Olympic programme, has also produced problems for the organizers. There were lengthy legal battles over the land where the course had to be laid out. Work has finally started, but is obviously behind schedule. The game has its place secure for the next two Olympic Games and will then be analyzed. I believe its continuation will depend on whether the big and well-known stars will compete which is something on which the IOC lays a lot of value. So it had better not be like it was before.
Golf was played in the Olympic Games of 1900 in Paris and in 1904 in St Louis, USA. In Paris it was a disaster with local ladies turning up to play in high-heeled shoes. In St Louis, a man named George Lyon won the gold medal. He had never held a golf club in his hand until the age of 38 and played accordingly. So golf was something of a joke, but the IOC did not laugh and left the sport out of the programme for the next 112 years.
Rugby, in its seven-a-side version, will also be played in Rio and what is likely to please the IOC from the financial viewpoint is that games will be well attended by spectators. It has also brought an upsurge of players in the country. Having a right to take part as the host country without going through a qualifying tournament like other participants, what has yet to be decided is whether due to Brazil’s low international ranking, it would have to play a qualifier against the lowest-ranked country to have qualified. This was also the case with Greece in field hockey at the Athens Olympics and may also be the case with Brazil’s low-ranked hockey teams in 2016.
So the international football federation (FIFA) fined the Argentine FA the equivalent of 270,000 pesos because their national team took the field for a friendly match with a banner reading “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” (The Malvinas are Argentine) when it is strictly forbidden by FIFA to show any political slogans. The 270,000 pesos would have been useful and better spent if given to one of the many little poor clubs in the country and AFA officials should think — if they can — what they do before doing it.