Rio Report -- Olympic Venue Changes Coming?

(ATR) Rio 2016 organizers are  believed to be on the verge of seeking venue changes for four sports as well as media facilities.

(ATR) Rio 2016 organizers are believed to beon the verge of seeking venue changes for four sports as well as media facilities.

The move would be proposed next week when the IOC Coordination Commission visits next week for its first visit since Rio de Janeiro won the Games last October.

The possibility of venue changesis widely reported in the Brazilian press and winning editorial support.

Mayor Edouard Paes is pushing hardest for the changes that would be part of the massive redevelopment of the decaying port district in the north of the city.

While the mayor isn’t bashful about the plan, Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman was careful in his comments when asked by Around the Rings about the proposal.

"This will be studied," is all he would say when asked about the possibility last week just prior to his report on Rio progress at the Pan American Sports Organization assembly in Merida, Mexico.

In his report to PASO, Nuzman showed a video – the only one of the presentation – about the port renovation project. He said the work "would be very important for the Olympics" but did not mention any venue changes.

Badminton, boxing, table tennis and weightlifting venues, all indoor arena events, are reported to be the sports being considered to move. About 1500 athletes would be affected.

Currently these sports are located in the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca, where the Olympic Village would also be built. That’s about about 30km from the port district, raising immediate issues for athlete transportation.

Venue travel times would increase as much as 400 percent according to one calculation. Currently athletes in the four sports are seven minutes from their venues at the Barra village. A move to the port would increase travel times to 38 minutes.

Paes says that despite questions like that, the Olympic use of the port will boost the legacy of the Games.

"The idea of the modifications is positive, because it stimulates investments in housing, trade and mass transportation to the area", Paes was quoted by the O Globo newspaper.

The port area is already a hot spot of real estate investment, as investors are capitalizing on the area’s revitalization. Observers say that could complicate plans for venue move.

Also mentioned in the venue changes is construction of the media center and media village. It is not clear whether this might be a secondary MMC and village or the entire operation in Barra proposed in the Rio bid. If it’s the entire media center and village, as many as 15,000 media representatives would be affected.

One real estate expert says the Barra district is not suitable for the media village if after-Games use is to be considered.

Rogério Chor, president of the Association of Leaders of Real Estate Companies, told O Globo putting the media village in Barra da Tijuca is "unrealizable".

Ina study commissioned by the city, it was determined that the concentration of investments in Barra would make it unfeasible to sell the media village apartments after the Olympics.

Felipe Góes, secretary for Rio development, predicts travel time will cause the biggest debate with IOC.

"They like concentration because that makes the overall operation easier. But we have to defend the legacy to the future", he said.

Nevertheless the municipality is optimistic about the receptiveness of the IOC.

Goés pointed out that the IOC has accepted venue changes in the past.

"London changed a lot of its original plan. Barcelona had a similar case, where the decision of placing the Olympic Village in the port region was negotiated with the IOC after the city won the dispute to host the games".

The venue changes have been mentioned during the bidding for the Games, but were left out of the final application file.

Along with the IOC, Rio 2016 would need to consult and win international federation approval for any venue changes. The IOC Press Commission would need to weigh-in on changes for media. If the International Broadcast Center is also involved, the rights holding broadcasters would also need to be consulted. For Vancouver 2010, the IBC was moved from Richmond to the new convention center built next to the Main Media Centre, a change made six years before the Games.

With reporting from Ed Hula and from Ana Bakx in Rio de Janeiro.