Less than six months after Rio de Janeiro hosted the first-ever Olympics in South America, game venues sit idle and already in disrepair, raising questions about a legacy that organisers promised would benefit the Brazilian city and its residents.
“We thought this would be for us,” said Alex da Silva Ferreira, a mechanic who walked with his 7-year-old son past the locked gate of what was supposed to be a park in Deodoro, a neighborhood that hosted canoeing and mountain bike competitions. “It’s been closed this entire time.”
A lack of activity and upkeep is plaguing facilities including the site of swimming competitions, where craters from disassembled pools collect stagnant water, and Rio’s famed Maracanã stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies.
The field there, one of the most iconic soccer pitches in the world, is giving way to dirt and scrub. Electricity was cut recently because of a financial spat between local officials and the contractor hired to manage the stadium.
Before the games, organisers touted the venues as facilities that could easily be repurposed in sports-crazed Rio. But little more than one beach volleyball tournament has been played at any of the venues - and even that drew criticism because it involved throwing sand on the Olympic tennis court.
“I guess sand is better than nothing but it’s pathetic not to be playing tennis there,” said Fernando Meligeni, who finished fourth in the tennis at the 1996 Games.
Federal, state and local governments, along with private partners, paid more than 40 billion reais (€12 billion) to host the Olympics, almost €2bn of which was for game venues and related facilities. Now they are negotiating with each other and new partners to find ways to fulfill the expected Olympic legacy.
They acknowledge the delays and blame a series of factors for the failure to repurpose the venues - from Brazil’s continuing recession to disagreements with contractors and a change in mayors after elections in October. “It’s a complicated moment,” said Patricia Amorim, the subsecretary for sport of Rio’s city government, during a recent visit to the massive grounds where events like tennis, swimming, and basketball were held. “There’s no doubt discomfort that this pretty park, so full not long ago, is not being used in the way that we, residents and athletes, would like.”
Meanwhile Germany’s Olympic discus champion Christoph Harting has called for International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach to resign over Russia’s doping scandal, in a hard-hitting interview published yesterday.
“Thomas Bach should resign so that the IOC will be able to have a new face, who stands for clean sport and consistent action,” the 26-year-old Harting told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper.
“The Olympic ideals suffered a lot of damage and lost credibility in the last few years. There is now a need for reforms that are transparent, comprehensible, consistent and sustainable, otherwise I see the Olympics slowly dying until 2040.”
Bach was heavily criticised in Germany last year for not taking a harder stance on drugs cheats.
The 63-year-old took flak after the IOC declined to impose a blanket ban on all Russian competitors for August’s Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games after a World Anti-Doping Agency probe found evidence of a wide-ranging cheating system directed from the top.
Russian participation is unlikely at the world athletics championships in London from August 5-13 the IAAF, has again prolonged the ban on their athletes competing until it is proven that they are regularly tested.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved