Tom Degun: Colour, carnival and celebration guaranteed for Rio 2016

Friday, 15 March 2013
Tom Degun ITG2A snapshot of the Rio 2016 Games was provided at the Closing Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics when the world was shown that Brazil knows how to party.

Pele, the man widely considered the best football ever, was perhaps the star attraction of the segment but the samba dancing that lit up the stage illustrated more vividly the Games Rio wants to host.

However, nothing can really do justice to being in the city itself and seeing first-hand just what an explosion of colour Rio de Janeiro really is.

My visit there this week coincided with the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards, which were making their first-ever appearance in the city.

Rather conveniently, my colleagues in the media and I were situated at the Windsor Atlântica Hotel directly opposite the stunning Copacabana beach.

The sunlit beach, filled all day with people, surfing, swimming, sunbathing or playing football or volleyball, provides a clear overview of the lifestyle in Rio. The beach itself is surrounded by stunning mountains all the way around and at the top of one of the highest stands the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, the symbol of the city.
 
Rio-de-JaneiroRio de Janeiro is one of the most colourful and vibrant cities on the planet

But this symbol of a relaxed, partying city has not served Rio too well in their preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission has not always been full of glowing praise for the way things are progressing and even when compliments do come, they are never without a thinly veiled warning.

The Commission, which is being led by Morocco's IOC vice-president Nawal El Moutawakel, visited for the fourth time last month and urged the Organising Committee to continue full steam ahead.

"Building work is on-going and the Organising Committee continues to strengthen its capacity," El Moutawakel said.

"However, many projects will have to be delivered simultaneously.

"We remain confident but we must all stay vigilant and continue to work hard, so that timelines are respected."

But if the Organising Committee is concerned, they are certainly not showing it.

During my trip, I sat down with the colourful Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman who explained that everything is very much on track.

"The visits of the IOC Coordination Commission are very important and we are grateful for the expert advice and guidance received," he said.

"It is good to show that that we are making strong progress in our journey and we are on track to deliver great Games for Rio, Brazil and the world to enjoy.

"We are very much on track to deliver a Games that will surpass all expectations."

Carlos Nuzman Laureus Awards March 2013Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman is confident that the city will deliver a spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games

Nuzman also made clear that Rio 2016 has no intention of trying to emulate London 2012, despite the monumental success of the Games in the English capital.

Rather wisely, he said the Brazilian city would instead play to their strengths of flair and flamboyancy to stage a great Games.

"I think each city is different and each must use their own tradition and their own culture to host the Games.

"We cannot compare ourselves to London or try and copy their style.

"We have different geography, we have a different legacy and we want our Games to be a real celebration of the transformation of the city.

"These Games will help transform Rio in a major way and we are already seeing that transformation.

"The Games will perhaps transform it more than any city has ever been transformed by the Olympics before so we will do it our own way which will be very special and leave a wonderful legacy for Rio and Brazil."

Even so, it is obviously they have zero time to rest in their preparations.

A trip to the Olympic Park site showed me that real building work is only just getting underway and the phenomenal plans for how it will look in 2016 are still a long way from becoming a reality.
 
Rio 2016 Olympic Park 2Designs for the Rio 2016 Olympic Park are spectacular but construction on the site still has a long way to go

One of the strange things is that the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, where the athletics will be staged, is not actually on the Olympic Park, which seems to be a bit of a trick missed. Instead, it is located in Engenho de Dentro, which is around a 30 minute drive away from the Park.

That is assuming the Olympic Lanes work as expected because traffic in Rio is a major problem. Huge investment in transportation over the next few years offers the opportunity to help solve the problem, but it is undoubtedly one of the city's biggest achilles heels right now.

But Rio 2016 have the advantage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup acting as an important learning curb and for that reason, it is a tournament that can help them immeasurably.

But so long as Rio 2016 ensure that the "timelines are respected" and they keep on top of construction, the wonderful character and vibrancy of the city allows for the possibility of the city hosting the greatest Games ever.

They have a tough act to follow, but for the supreme management, organisation and efficiency London had, Rio provides a different offering of colour, carnival and celebration.

And that is certainly no bad thing as we get closer to South America's first ever Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here
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