Nick Butler
People are going to have to accept that in some ways Rio 2016 is going to be different from Olympic and Paralympic Games of recent times.

For there will undoubtedly be technical deficiencies, organisational problems and repeated delays - and it will be incomparable in terms of efficiency with London and Sochi.

But it must not be forgotten that Rio was not awarded the Games for technical reasons and the first to be held in South America should also contain unique, beneficial and thrilling elements. The trick will be avoiding allowing the negative aspects to taint and overwhelm the positives.

In other words, Rio 2016 has the potential for greatness - although at this stage "potential" remains the operative word.

Having been immersed largely within the world of Sochi 2014 in my time at insidethegames, attending last week's latest visit of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission to Rio was my first opportunity to get fully up to speed with the next Summer Games.

And due to my lack of familiarity, this crucial point relating to the different expectations of a Games in Brazil was something I had not initially grasped.

I soon learnt.

The best lesson came on the final day of the Commission, when an hour before the closing press conference, the increasingly large media contingent was ushered into a woefully small, roped off area in the entrance hall of the Rio 2016 Headquarters on the premise that Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes would appear to speak shortly;

As the minutes ticked by and no Mayor appeared, I was amazed by the lack of complaints and how everyone took it in their stride - with fellow non-Brazilian journalists the only ones to voice any sign of dissent. The appointed time for the press confernece came and went and still no one moved - partly because they were physically unable to given the lack of space - until it was eventually confirmed that Paes would not after all appear and everyone trooped off to the conference with barely a murmur of dissatisfaction.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes proved an elusive prospect as far as an interview was concerned ©LatinContent WO/Getty ImagesRio Mayor Eduardo Paes proved an elusive prospect as far as an interview was concerned ©LatinContent WO/Getty Images

By this point I had already realised that this is just how things work in Brazil. "Things always get done in the end fine", one journalist told me, "but they are always on the last minute".

"Brazil is missing an organisational gene," was the less sympathetic conclusion of another.

But before considering specific areas where Rio may, or may not be, illustrating that lack of an organisational gene, it is important to outline the positive and exciting elements of Rio 2016.

First is the bringing of the Olympics to a new area and a new continent. This was something which the IOC considered vital when choosing Rio five years ago in Copenhagen over three technically stronger bids. And, although the fact they chose the "safe choice" of Tokyo rather than the riskier one of Istanbul in the 2020 race suggests their opinions may now have changed, this remains an important point. The Olympics is a global event so the IOC must be applauded for bringing the Games to a new part of the globe.

The second obvious positive is Rio's spectacular backdrop. Although Sochi was very successful, there was little character to the city and when I ventured outside the confines of the Olympic hub one evening, there was little to see and almost no evidence that an Olympic Games was going on.

In Rio it will be completely different, for it is a city immersed in landmarks. Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacobana Beach, beautiful bays, stunning architecture and all the energy and vitality of the Brazilian people.

My self-initiated venue tour was limited to the extent that it encompassed only the Copacabana venues, so was perhaps a skewed perspective, but the best thing I found was how much the venues embrace Rio's history and vitality.

Beach Volleyball on Copacabana Beach will be a particular highlight ©ITGBeach Volleyball on Copacabana Beach will be a particular highlight ©ITG

From the beach volleyball on Copacabana Beach - right in front of the Windsor Hotel where the IOC members were staying last week - Rio showed they are pushing even higher the bar set by London hosting the sport on Horse Guards Parade.

Football in the Maracana Stadium, archery and the marathon finish on the iconic Rua Marquez de Sapucai where carnival is held, and road cycling taking in Flamenco Bay and many of Rio's hillier segments, are other highlights. Pollution aside, the water-sport venues - flatwater canoeing and rowing on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the Guanabara Bay for sailing and the Copacabana Bay for open water swimming - will all be visually spectacular and bring some of these sports to the centre of the Games like never before.

While the other venue clusters are perhaps less spectacular they each have their own benefits, encompassing legacy as well as performance and the fact that - four football stadiums aside - the entire Games will take place within the city, another unprecedented advantage.

This does not really need to be said, but another positive thing that strikes you about Rio is the love of sport and you just have to sit in a cafe in Copacabana to get an understanding of this.

On one side you have runners, cyclist and roller-skaters braving the heat on the pavement. On the other you have volleyball, tennis and football players spiking, hitting and kicking on the beach. As I was told by Tanya Harris, a former British Olympic Association official who has relocated to the city to set up a sport and security consultancy ahead of the Games, there cannot be many places which epitomise sport more than Rio. And this involves people from all socio-economic backgrounds and of all ages and abilities.

There cannot be many places where sport plays quite such a dominant and crucial role ©Getty ImagesThere cannot be many places where sport plays quite such a dominant and crucial role ©Getty Images

"You are English? Do you think you will win the World Cup?" I was asked on several occasion by enthusiastic Brazilians who were presumably being polite rather than asking a genuine question they did not already know the answer to...

But beyond football, and in Olympic sports like volleyball, swimming and sailing, the passion and support is huge. And it is certain that the people will also embrace sports they are less familiar with during the Games - like rugby sevens as well as all of the Paralympic disciplines.

I had repeatedly been warned that Rio is not an easy place to work. But when on my last day a German hotel guest answered "Why would anyone come here for pleasure" when I asked him if he was here for work or pleasure, I was slightly taken aback because my impression had been very different.

On the whole I found people warm and friendly and, although English is not spoken well, it is certainly easier to get by without speaking the language than in some other countries. Everyone in my hotel was helpful and willing to provide advice when, and sometimes when not, required, and there was an impressive number of information kiosks to help you on the streets when lost or in difficulty.

Notwithstanding several occasions when I mistakenly took a train in the wrong direction, the hardest thing I found was navigating the ticket system on the metro. But while the staff never spoke any English, a fellow customer was invariably on hand to help me out - even if they gave the impression they were doing it out of exasperation at having to wait for an incompetant foreigner rather than due to a genuine desire to help...

But overall I have to say I was impressed and feel that the people will fully embrace the international presence come both the World Cup and the Games.

So what of the major issues which are clouding preperations?

As far as clouding is concerned, in a quite literal sense pollution seems a good place to start.

Water pollution is an issue which was raised during the last Coordination Commission visit in September and - due to the fact that sailing has now been announced as the first test event to be held in August - it was an important one this time around as well. An ambitious plan has been introduced to treat up to 80 per cent of sewage by 2016, as well as the many other waste objects which litters the waters, in a bid to change the public attitude towards pollution and therefore therefore utilise the Olympics as a catalyst for change. At this stage, criticism remains high and little improvements have been realised, although Rio 2016 are certainly making the right noises.

The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas will be a beautiful venue...although pollution remains a concern ©ITGThe Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas will be a beautiful venue...although pollution remains a concern ©ITG

The impression I got is that by 2016 all the facilities will be fully treated and fit for competition - but the prospects of the much-hoped-for wider improvements beyond Games venues appears far less realistic.

Security is another increasingly important issue - particularly in the aftermath of a recent shoot-out in the Manguinhos favela complex which included multiple deaths and shots being fired on a police outpost. According to many people the situation has got worse in recent years and a leaked Brazilian Government report has described a "a difficult relationship between people and society in Rio".

But, for the mass of visitors who will not stray near the favela regions, my feeling is that so long as you are vigilant, you will be OK. Having been wandering around with a large map in one hand and the sort of bag that screams "valuables" in the other, I must have stood out a mile. Yet I never felt in any danger or felt the need to turn around in an intimidating street

A third area where doubts remain is with regards to anti-doping capabilities. Reading between the lines, you feel that this is an area where Rio really do have to buck up their ideas. The laboratory at the Federal University did not meet certification standards required for the World Cup, and while anti-doping will instead be conducted in Lausanne, conducting it overseas is simply impossible for the Olympics. But World Anti-Doping Agency's director general told insidethegames last week that the deadline for Rio's laboratory being ready was "yesterday", and it can be assumed the IOC are applying pressure for improvements to be made.

Rio 2016 insisted to me that up-to-standard facilities will be in place come Games time, and I imagine they will be, but I also feel that more deadlines will be missed before then...

Venues is another area where deadlines may not be met. It is also an area I do not feel I fully got to grips with given my limited venue tour - although with regards to the much maligned Deodoro Complex, I was repeatedly told there will be no problems because most venues are already there, and the required work is much less extensive than often assumed.

Certainly in comparison with the World Cup, unready venues seem less of a problem at this stage. But we will not know for sure until nearer the time.

Construction work is well underway in Rio...although time will tell if it will be ready in time ©AFP/Getty ImagesConstruction work is well underway in Rio...although time will tell if it will be ready in time ©AFP/Getty Images

Next we have transparency and corrupton. Even though I was in Rio for just three days I was astonished by how often I heard the "c-word" uttered. And that is not to mention other references through well-chosen phrases such as: "You cannot track the money."

Problems exist at an administrative level as well as within the sports world - with a scandal last week over the Brazilian Volleyball Federation with ramifications for the international federation an example of the latter. Rio 2016 are working hard to convince people of their openness, and this has been best illustrated by a portal - accessible to anyone here - which outlines every bid and contract for every company involved in Games services ranging from laundry to the supply of 25,000 tennis balls.

It is an admirable effort and my impression is that this is a problem so deeply engrained in Brazilian society that any effort to increase transparency must be applauded.

For all these areas, final solutions will be reached at a meeting to be held in Brasilia this week encompassing the many levels of Government, as well as members of the Organising Committee.

Or that is what we have been told anyway.

A final area for consideration, and one described by the IOC as "the most important to the Brazilian population", is legacy. For Rio 2016 have insisted, just like London and Sochi did before them, that the Games may be just three weeks long but the benefits should last for 100 years or more.

As well as in relation to tackling pollution and increasing transparency, other legacy projects include huge improvements to public transport, thousands of jobs to be provided by new hotels, and many educational projects including second language training for schoolchildren and workers. 

The challenge is convincing people of the merits of this work.

This point appears the difference between Rio 2016 and the World Cup. While the World Cup has bought various footballing benefits, it has not encompassed the wider community in the same way. This is largely because FIFA place this task in lower regard than the IOC but also due to the logistical ease of bringing benefits to a single city rather than an entire country.

The World Cup appears to have also tried less hard to convince the public of the benefits of hosting the event. As a consequence, the public protests which have permeated recent months ever since the Confederations Cup appear less likely to be prevalent at Rio 2016. Although Rio will have to continue both their work, and the rhetoric accompanying that work, to ensure that remains the case. 

The World Cup with a final in the Maracana Stadium is the first sporting challenge for Brazil ©Getty ImagesThe World Cup with a final in the Maracana Stadium is the first sporting challenge for Brazil ©Getty Images

It must also be remembered what a huge and unprecedented challenge it is to host the World Cup folllowed by the Olympics in such a short period of time. And the fact that since 2009, the global downturn has slowed Brazil's economic growth and increased levels of inflation has hardly made things easier.

If one thing is certain, it is that with Sochi now out the way, all of the onus and attention is on Rio, and the next Olympic and Paralympic host city cannot afford to make many more slip-ups or delays. As Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman admitted following the Coordination Commission visit, "there is no more time to lose".

But with all of this considered, my answer to the question of whether Rio will be a success remains one of cautious optimism - and I am very conscious of the fact that, in my Olympic memory, Games from Athens to Sochi have been riddled with problems in the build-up but have ultimately delivered, and delivered well.

So after a first visit of what I hope will be many, I am going to tentatively conclude that Rio will be ready and will be a success. That said, I feel the need to add that it will be a long and bumpy road to get there...and there will certainly be a few more missed deadlines to come.

Nick Butler is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here