Nick ButlerIt feels an awful lot longer than three months since I visited Rio de Janeiro and immersed myself in the fascinating world of Olympic preparations for the first time.

At that point, the Organising Committee was still doing a reasonably good job of convincing everyone that progress was running smoothly and on schedule. And with the Games still appearing a long way off, the various concerns were smouldering in the background rather than an immediate worry.

That did not last.

Although the last Coordination Commission report was positive, these concerns erupted spectacularly into the public domain during the SportAccord Convention in the Turkish resort of Belek in April. First and foremost were construction delays surrounding most of the venue hubs, and particularly at the Deodoro Complex where it emerged preparations were two years behind schedule and had not even started. Water pollution was another major issue, while security, public opposition, doping control and Government support were not far behind.

Writing in his Daily Telegraph column last month, London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe claimed the two-and-a-half years to go point is the hardest in any Olympic cycle because, with the Winter Games now over, you are at the front of the queue and global attention begins to build. And so it proved.

At one point it seemed every day was bringing with it a deeper blow for the beleaguered Organising Committee. International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president John Coates described the preparations as the worst he had ever experienced, while we then saw those fantastical reports that alternative venues, such as London and Madrid, were being considered.

Alongside this we had the looming shadow of the FIFA World Cup and all the organisational and popularity problems therein.

From our perspective, the only way the Games could possibly be moved from Rio was if something went disastrously wrong with the football extravaganza. If a part of a stadium collapsed, for example, or if the protests grew to become a fully blown conflict with army and security forces.

Attention has focused on action on the pitch so far at the FIFA World Cup, rather than problems off it ©Getty ImagesAttention has focused on action on the pitch so far at the FIFA World Cup, rather than problems off it ©Getty Images





This has not happened and the World Cup appears to be going refreshingly well. Although there have been protests, they have been conducted only by a hardcore minority and, unlike during the Confederations Cup last year, the general public has resisted temptation to participate. They have instead focused on the beautiful game and on supporting Neymar and co in their quest for a sixth title.

This is a somewhat contentious remark but I feel the worst may be over for Rio 2016 as well.

Yes, there are still problems. The construction timetable remains tight but, with the bid tender process for Deodoro having finally been completed, I get the feeling that, by hook or by crook, they will get there in time.

There is no chance the general commitment to tackle 80 per cent of water pollution levels will be met, once hailed as a great legacy of the Games, but it is likely levels will be satisfactory in the Olympic venues themselves by 2016, even if the woefully premature sailing test event this August is affected. And in terms of public support, you feel that the bulk of the population will ultimately support the Games in the same way they are currently getting behind the World Cup.

It is also important to remember that there were other reasons why the IOC chose Rio over other technically superior bids in 2009, and that the first South American Games does promise to be unique and groundbreaking in equal measure. Even if many promises, such as the one concerning pollution, are unlikely to be fulfilled, the Games should still also bring important legacy benefits, and certainly to a far greater degree than any brought about by the World Cup.

These were all points I made following my visit in March and I promptly received a flood of messages admonishing me for being taken in by an ostensibly beautiful city.

But to give one example of a pioneering component of Rio 2016 should generate a positive legacy; take the case of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as the Torch Relay and the 306 Olympic and 526 Paralympic medal ceremonies.

I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with Simone Masserini, the director of international business development at Filmmaster Events, the Italian event, advertising and television-holding company charged with organising all of these events. 

In 2011 a process was opened to outsource organisational control to a single company, something that had never been done before. The only conditions for those applying were that they had to have experience in an Olympic Games and they had to partner with a Brazilian company, or at the very least open a Brazilian branch.

It is hoped the Torch Relay will illustrate the beauty of Rio and the rest of the world ©Getty ImagesIt is hoped the Torch Relay will illustrate the beauty of Rio and the rest of the world
©Getty Images



After a five month process, the consortium Cerimonias Cariocas 2016 was selected, a group formed by a 50-50 collaboration between Filmmaster and Brazilian large event producers SRCOM. So as well as building on Filmmaster's experience in organising the ceremonies for Turin 2006, they would be supplemented by a local company which would thus be able to further its range and scope and, as Rio 2016 chief Carlos Nuzman said, leave "a legacy to the local marketplace".

So in a practical sense, what will this work entail?

While for the Opening Ceremony the aim is to illustrate Brazil to the world, for the Torch Relay the key point is to appeal to the domestic audience and to make the people rally behind the Games, as the London 2012 Relay managed so spectacularly.

"Brazil is pretty big and that is a real challenge," Masserini admitted to insidethegames. "We have to work out what Brazil wants to show and how best to incorporate all 27 states, and we don't have the money that Sochi had so cannot do it like they did.

"So we have to channel the Brazilian spirit and to make the people feel proud and excited about what is to come. That is what we tried to do in the Handover Ceremony [during the Closing Ceremony of London 2012] where we had lots of flags and national colours and made use of iconic Brazilian figures including Pele."

Masserini admits there will be logistical challenges and differences from previous events, but after spending several years living in the country, he is confident that ultimately they will be a success.

"With the organisation, you have to realise that they are not British or Chinese," he added. "They are Brazilian so they will do it their own way. There will be challenges because it is part of the culture, and you have to expect them to be slow. It is therefore important for us to plan and to know our own schedule but we will also go with the flow.

"And what we have seen on television with all the protests will not come into fruition, I feel. We recently had a workshop there and it was fun - people are really keen and there is a lot of enthusiasm.

"I am confident that ultimately the people will get behind the Games and hopefully our work will help them to do this."

The Rio section of the London 2012 Closing Ceremony sought to include plenty of Brazilian spirit ©Getty ImagesThe Rio section of the London 2012 Closing Ceremony sought to include plenty of Brazilian spirit ©Getty Images



So although it is virtually guaranteed that many more problems lie ahead, and it remains important for journalists to draw attention to these, it is also important to accentuate some of these positives. For whatever spurious reports predict, the Games are going to remain in Rio and they can certainly still be a force for good.

And after a slightly quieter few weeks and the success so far of the FIFA World Cup, I can now visualise this happening to a slightly more confident degree.

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