Exclusive: Challenges lie ahead in preparing Rio to host Olympic rowing, admits next FISA boss Rolland

Sunday, 17 November 2013
By Nick Butler

The next FISA boss Jean Christophe Rolland sees many challenges ahead for the Rio 2016 rowing venue ©British RowingNovember 17 - Jean-Christophe Rolland, the already elected next President of the International Rowing Federation (FISA), has admitted that challenges lie ahead regarding the construction of the sport's venue for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

After Rio 2016 passed the 1,000 days to go barrier earlier this month, there has been a lot of focus on the construction process being behind schedule.

The rowing venue is at the centre of the city, at the iconic Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, but despite its beauty and existing water supply, Rolland highlighted concerns over the logistics and facilities required at the actual course.

Having competed at three Olympics and winning gold in the coxless pairs at Sydney 2000 before departing for administrative roles, he appears in a good position to understand what it takes to host the Games.

The Frenchman, due to take over from current President Denis Oswald next July after initially serving a transferral period, is bound to find Rio 2016 near the top of his first term agenda. 

He made clear that he is not yet an expert so does not know "all the different dimensions", but admitted feeling that the Games organisers are certainly not "in advance" with their preparations.


Rowing at Rio will be held in an iconic location, but will it be ready? ©Getty ImagesRowing at Rio will be held in an iconic location, but will it be ready? ©Getty Images


"The Games is a lot about building the venues and there is a huge amount of detail to get the Games organised - so we know that we have some challenges," Rolland told insidethegames.

"On the time they are probably not in advance like London [2012] was.

"I am not in all the different dimensions, and I'm not in the Coordination Commission but what I heard is that we have some challenges in terms of coordination.

"In rowing we have the water, but beyond the water we need the grandstand and all the equipment and facilities for the athletes so we have the best conditions and environment's for athletes to compete in.

"The rowing competition manager [Bernardo Villano] has been appointed so we hope from now we will be able to build, with the Organising Committee, and to do all we need to ensure that we will be ready in time.

"We have a big task ahead of us but I'm sure the good relations we have with the Organising Committee will mean that we will achieve all of this on time."

At the same time Rolland did, however, give plenty of reasons for optimism that the Rio 2016 regatta will be every bit as successful as the London 2012 version, which he describes as "simply unbelievable".

A repeat of the home success and the crowd support that was seen at London 2012 is what Jean-Christophe Rolland hopes for at Rio 2016 ©Getty ImagesA repeat of the home success and the crowd support that was seen at London 2012 is what Jean-Christophe Rolland hopes for at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images




Although he says that you cannot really compare Rio with London because of the strong rowing tradition in Britain, he argues that - like London, but unlike most other venues - Rio has the advantage of having an existing stretch of water.

This is doubly important due to the location in the heart of the city which means that rowing will be at the centre of the atmosphere and attention come Rio 2016. 

"We have a piece of water - if you look at Athens [2004] or Beijing [2008] the fact is we had to build new courses so water was the very first issue," he told insidethegames.

"The location is also very important to us.

"We have the water and we will be located in the very middle of the city - we will be in one of the most iconic lagoons in the world, so in that respect it is a great opportunity.

"Obviously rowing is not as developed [in Brazil] as in London, but this opportunity to be in the middle of the city is a good factor for us.

"I guess we will have a lot of people so will have a good atmosphere.

"Lets see, we know that London was so successful - I'm really looking forward to Rio to see how the atmosphere will be."

Click here to read the full exclusive interview with Jean-Christophe Rolland.

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