Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Brazil welcomes the world

Tomorrow the world will focus its attention on the city of Rio de Janeiro which promises to deliver a great Olympic Games. From Brazil, Inas Mazhar looks into what the host city is offering

Al-Ahram Weekly

Barra, Deodoro, Maracana and Copacabana are the names of the four competition zones that will host the Rio 2016 Olympic Games which will be held from 5 August to 21 August. They will be linked to each other by a high-capacity transport network. Nearly half of the athletes competing at the Games will be able to reach their venues in less than 10 minutes and 75 per cent of them in under 25 minutes.

There are 32 competition venues in the host city of Rio de Janeiro. Six of them are already operational and additional nine have undergone refurbishment. Ten are permanently new sites that will create a lasting legacy for the city and seven are temporary. Some of the competition locations were built in 2007 for the XV Pan-American Games.

Similarly, to other previous Olympic parks in previous editions of the Games, the neighbourhood of Barra de Tijuca will provide the setting for the largest number of disciplines, 23 in total. Situated in the western part of the city, on the site of the old Jacarepagua Formula One racetrack, the Barra zone features 15 competition venues, the International Broadcasting Centre/Main Press Centre (IBC/ MPC), the Olympic Village and the Olympic Park.

The Olympic Park is home to the Carioca Arenas 1, 2 and 3 which hosts five sports: basketball, judo, taekwondo, wrestling and fencing. Handball will take place at the Future Arena. The Olympic Park also includes the Olympic Tennis Centre, the Rio Olympic Velodrome (cycling track), the Rio Olympic Arena which hosts artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline, the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre where diving, synchronised swimming and water polo in the preliminaries will take place and the all-new Olympic Aquatics Stadium, where the swimming and water polo finals will be held.

The Barra zone also includes the Riocentro complex and pavilions which will host boxing, table tennis, badminton and weightlifting and the Olympic golf course, which is located further south. Meanwhile, the beachside location of Pontal will provide the start point for the time trials of the road and athletics walk events.

In the north of the city lies the Deodoro zone, which comprises the Whitewater Stadium and is set to host the following sport competitions: canoe slalom, the Olympic mountain bike, BMX, shooting, equestrian and hockey centres. The Youth Arena will stage women’s group stage basketball matches and the modern pentathlon fencing, and the Deodoro Stadium will be the venue for rugby sevens and the modern pentathlon showjumping, combined pistol shooting and cross-country run events.

The Barra and Deodoro zones will be linked by a new 26km highway known as the TransOlimpica, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line.

In the east are the Maracanã and Copacabana zones. The legendary Maracanã Stadium will tomorrow host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the football finals in addition to one men’s and one women’s semi-final. In the meantime, the Olympic Stadium, another of the football venues, will also provide the setting for the track and field events. The famous Sambódromo, also in the Maracanã zone, will stage the start and finish of the marathon as well as the archery competitions while the Maracanãzinho (Little Maracanã) will host the volleyball competition.

In the Copacabana zone, sailing will take place at the Marina de Glória, while the rowing and canoe sprint competitions are taking place at the Lagoa Stadium at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The Beach Volleyball Beach Arena is a temporary venue on Copacabana Beach, while Fort Copacabana will play host to the start and finish of the cycling road races, the triathlons and the open-water marathons.

As at previous Summer Olympic Games, the football tournaments will be held around the country, with Salvador, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Manaus and São Paulo providing additional venues.

To help make fans’ journeys to venues cheap and convenient, there has been major investment in public transport. A new tram service, the VLT, has been built to link the domestic airport, Santos Dumont, with Rio’s main bus station, and will run from 6am to midnight during the Games. The VLT stops at two metro stations – Cinelandia and Carioca – which in turn can connect passengers to venues in the Copacabana and Maracanã zones.

Visitors can also reach the other two clusters, Deodoro and the Olympic Park in Barra, with either a train or a bus transfer. As well as ensuring people get to the Games, the network also leaves an important urban mobility legacy for Rio.

“We always dreamed of making this city fairer and more modern,” Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio, says. “With the Transolímpica BRT, a big part of the population will travel more quickly and conveniently during their commute. This was one of the main legacies from the Olympics.”

To help speed up connections between venues, a single travel pass can be used on bus, metro, train and BRT networks. The RioCard can be bought for single day, three-day or seven-day use and while the cards expire at midnight on the day of expiry, there will be a two-hour grace period for those at events that finish after 12am. Olympic visitors with a RioCard will get exclusive use of the TransOlimpica and Line 4 on the metro, which opened a week before the launching of the Games and will be operational for Olympic visitors.

An Olympic Route Network for athletes, the media and other Olympic groups came into force starting 25 July, and during the Games the roads around the Olympic Park will be closed to accommodate a special traffic system. A team of 380 highway staff will oversee the operation.

The authorities are also prepared for the demands of spectators going to and from the opening ceremony at the Maracanã on 5 August. More than 2,000 staff took part in a training exercise, assessing the movement of 250 buses to and from the event. “We can’t deny that so many people travelling around on 5 August will impact the city,” says Leonardo Maciel, director of operations of the Municipal Olympic Company. “Our job is to make sure everything runs smoothly in spite of that. The simulation has fully met our expectations.”

Around 3,300 public security staff will be on duty around the Maracanã as the Games begin. And Rio will also count on the 24-hour Integrated Command and Control Centre to monitor traffic flow around the city. “We’re confident that we’re ready for the opening ceremony,” Felipe Seixas, security coordinator of the Games ceremonies along with the Ministry of Justice, says. “We successfully escorted athletes from the Olympic Village to the Maracanã under National Security Forces and ensured the safety of heads of state and Brazilian authorities. There wasn’t any kind of inconvenience when they arrived at Palácio do Itamaraty, just like there wasn’t any problems at Maracanã or when returning to Itamaraty.”

Days before the opening ceremony IOC President Thomas Bach said the host city was ready and is fully prepared to receive its athletes and guests.

“After talking to chefs de mission, NOCs and athletes in the Olympic Village, I could sense a positive attitude and a great spirit. There has been a great deal of understanding with all the NOCs and athletes working together to make this village a success.

“The legacy of these Games is also taking shape. I was at the inauguration of the Metro Line 4 on Saturday that will serve some 300,000 passengers every day. The complete renovation of the Port Maravilla, in the historical centre of Rio, has created some 9,000 jobs for the population. The handball venue will become four public schools. The canoe slalom will become a park in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Rio. All this is summarised in a report that we received from a renowned foundation (Fundacao Getulio Vargas) which says that Rio, thanks to the Games, has enjoyed a greater and more equitable growth than any other city in Brazil over the last seven years,” Bach explained.

“I am looking forward to a great Games,” Bach said. “There will be last minute challenges, but what we have seen so far is that Brazilians are capable of addressing challenges, and I am more confident than ever that we will have a great Games à la Brazil five days from now.”

This will be the first Summer Olympic Games under Bach.

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