Olympic futures at the Global Sports Forum

Spain: Two venues about to embark on the adventure of hosting an Olympic Games, Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016, rubbed shoulders with one currently entering the bidding fray, Barcelona 2022, at the Global Sports Forum. What’s obvious is that more and more, the focus of the organiser’s efforts seems to be on infrastructure improvements and presenting the Games as a vehicle for social change.

42,000 people are currently labouring 24/7 to bring the dreams of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to life in what is undoubtedly Russia’s, and possibly the world’s, largest current construction project. According to Dimity Chernyshenko, president of the organising committee, 25,000 hotel rooms are being built, green standards are being pursued vigorously in a huge push for sustainability and carbon-neutrality, four pairs of snow leopards (one of the game’s polyglot menagerie of mascots) have been reintroduced to the countryside, and he’s even hoping that the Games can change Russia’s attitude to disability.

“15 million Russians are disabled,” he said, “and we want the games to be a catalyst for creating barrier-free public spaces in the country.”

Examining the efforts of Rio 2016, meanwhile, the focus was all on transport. The city came up with a four-cluster plan to stage the games, with loci in Barra, Deodoro, Maracana, and Copacabana. All this entails up to 40km transits from the Olympic Village which, when added to the strain that an estimated 300,000 visitors will place on the transport infrastructure, has necessitated a significant level of investment in improving and upgrading and “providing a legacy for all the people in the city” according to Carlos Nuzman, president of Rio’s organising committee. Metro Lina 4, linking Barra and Copacabana, is nine months into the construction of 10km of tunnels, while a 100km Bus Rapid Transport system is being constructed.

Asked whether there were synergies or conflicts with the FIFA World Cup efforts for 2014, Nuzman inevitably said the former, though he did admit that there was still some work to be done to increase capacity at Rio’s airports.

Barcelona’s 2022 Winter games bid, headed up by Enric Truno, probably summed up the mood by quoting Samaranch’s dictum that the Games are about ‘sport, culture and the environment’. Despite another Spanish bid in the system from Zaragoza, not to mention nigh on 20 others worldwide, and an admission that the Pyrenees resorts in the bid will need a fair amount of work, Truno is confident. Not only does it fulfil the requirements of a large city with nearby mountains, but it can lean on the legacy of Barcelona 1992’s infrastructure (notably the Olympic Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies) and he states that “the Barcelona model is very well regarded in the Olympic movement.”

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