Rio de Janeiro and IOC Still Navigating Beyond 2016 Olympic Legacy

(ATR) A look at the many viewpoints on the Rio Olympic legacy, and how that's driving the IOC to manage risk.

(ATR) Both the city of Rio de Janeiro and the IOC are dealing with the aftermath of the 2016 Olympics, but in different ways.

It's been 18 months since the close of the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the first to be held in South America. Staging the Games came down to a series of last minute feats, culminating with influxes of cash during the event to ensure its completion.

Now, the city and state of Rio de Janeiro are in a much different place than when it won the Games, began constructing the Games, and hosted the Games. The IOC, meanwhile, says it has implemented new legacy reforms and is proactively working to partner with cities after the Games leave town.

Currently, the state of Rio is mired in an economic crisis that is disrupting all aspects of public life, including security.The Olympics certainly were not the direct or only cause of the current budget mismanagement. However, the past federal and state governments' pursuit of the Olympics and World Cup cannot be ignored, Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist at the State University of Rio, said to Around the Rings.

"The Rio crisis has many reasons, from falling oil [prices] to widespread corruption, but the mega events played a significant role," Santoro said. "They were an important part of the corruption schemes in Rio and served as a pretext for the government to grant tax benefits to companies with whom it had political agreements, something important to explain the brutal fall in the tax collection in the Rio government."

Rio's Legacy Viewed Differently

While Rio de Janeiro continues down a path fraught with crises, sport and government officials maintain the belief that the legacy plan created for the 2016 Games has seen a fair amount of success.

IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi said to ATRthat the issues with two venues are a small sticking point in a complex plan with many successful parts.

"If you’ve looked at all the other pieces of this, they are in use," Dubi said. "This is where we are struggling because this is part of the image of the park and these venues that were supposed to be dismantled are still up and this is not good."

The two venues in question are the Future Arena and Aquatics Center, the two major temporary venues in the Barra Olympic Park.

The legacy plan was created by the Eduardo Paes administration, but immediately after the Olympics Rio de Janeiro saw a political transition. Paes was unable to run for a third consecutive term as mayor, and his preferred candidate Pedro Paulo did not reach the final ballot for the office. Instead, Evangelical Christian Senator Marcelo Crivella was elected for a four year mandate.

Roberta Pinto, a spokesperson for the sub-secretariat for Olympic legacy in Crivella’s administration, said to ATR City Hall is "looking to follow the [Paes] legacy plan to the fullest [extent]," but the budgetary realities have not allowed it.

Last November, a City Hall spokesperson said there would not be enough money in the municipal budget to dismantle the two temporary venues. The spokesperson added that City Hall would not rule out changing the legacy plans for each venue in an effort to secure funding for dismantling.

Pinto now says that City Hall is exploring different plans that could see dismantling start next month.

For the Aquatics Center, Pinto says the city is working with construction companies to exchange the labor to dismantle the remaining structure in exchange for keeping the metal and other materials. The Brazilian Ministry of Sport is working with City Hall to finalize a plan for the dismantling of the Future Arena and keep the legacy plan of reusing the materials to form four schools.

The Sports Ministry confirmed to ATR that any dismantling remains the responsibility of the city, but the federal budget will supply the funds needed.

"[The funds] will be released by the Federal Savings Bank, mandated by the Federal Government, only after the presentation of a work plan by the municipality, according to the agreement signed between the Ministry and the city hall in December 2016," a spokesperson for the sports ministry said.

Currently the Sports Ministry and Rio City Hall jointly manage venues within the Barra Olympic Park. City Hall manages Carioca Arena 3, with the Sports Ministry authorizing the Olympic Legacy Management Authority (AGLO) to administer the others. AGLO’s mandate and funding will run until the end of June 2019, after which a private operator must be found for the venues.

"Only in 2016, the first year of AGLO's operation, the Barra Olympic Park hosted 85 events and the Deodoro Sports Complex received another 88, attracting an audience of more than 290,000 people and almost 1,800 athletes attended," a sports ministry spokesperson said.

AGLO regularly posts pictures of events hosted at the Barra Park featuring children from local neighborhoods including nearby favelas. The authority also has been promoting the ongoing para-cycling World Championships at the Olympic velodrome. The venue has caught on fire twice in the last year, but is still fit to host the first championships in the park since the 2016 Olympics.

Confira a aula de tênis para a garotada da Cidade de Deus, realizada pela https://t.co/F81z8DviV4 em parceria com a AGLO, no Parque Olímpico da Barra. @minesporte @Prefeitura_Rio @RedeDoEsporteBr @atleta_co pic.twitter.com/AACczvpfsq

— AGLO (@AGLO_Legado) March 16, 2018

When ATR showed an influential community leader in the Cidade de Deus favela pictures of an AGLO program that brings sports to children in the neighborhood, they were not impressed. The person, who asked not to be identified so as to speak freely about the neighborhood, is also a municipal employee in Rio de Janeiro. The community leader said that the neighborhood has 70,000 people, and asked "do you think [most] of our children are going through this?

"Crime has [increased] since [last year]. We have a lot more young people [joining drug traffickers]. The great truth is that the State is bankrupt and the current administration of the City Hall is still trying to hit its stride with the [favelados]."

Santoro echoed these statements saying he "does not know anyone who uses the Olympic installations" after Rio 2016.

"For most, the Olympics were a beautiful party, but it had little impact on everyday life," Santoro added. "The plan was made at a time when there was a real estate boom in Rio de Janeiro, with the expectation that the area would be highly valued. This did not happen."

To put it bluntly the same Cariocas whose lives were supposed to benefit from the influx of spending for mega events such as the Olympics now see their streets patrolled by the Brazilian military, since the state government cannot guarantee security. This comes just over 30 years since Brazil transitioned from a military dictatorship to a young democracy, and is the first time such a decree has been used in the young republic. The decree was issued by President Michel Temer, who also approved the release of funds so the Paralympics could be held, a move heralded by sport leaders at the time.

Even projects related to the Games in different capacities have fallen by the wayside. Rio’s political leaders, expected to maintain momentum from the Games, instead slowed down plans for cleaning up Guanabara Bay. By the end of 2016 a report from Bloomberg showed the state quietly fired employees working on sewage treatment plans.

A lesser example is the seedlings planted by each country during the 2016 Opening Ceremony. The trees were supposed to be planted in the Deodoro Park and the journey would be shown in a documentary at the 2020 Olympics. Currently, Pinto says City Hall "will have to bear the costs" to transfer the seedlings to Deodoro and care for them after assuming control from Rio 2016.

A former employee of Rio 2016 with knowledge of the committee told ATR that the city was always supposed to care for the seedlings, and hopes the money is found soon. Rio 2016 is still operationalwith six employees, and the full amount of committee's current debts should be known soon. The employee said some debta had been paid to allow for renovations in the Deodoro Olympic Park at the end of last year.

Future Olympic Legacy Changes

The IOC says it has taken steps to avoid future mismanagement of venues, thanks to reforms taken during Olympic Agenda 2020.

Dubi says the IOC has created a "joint steering committee," to continually bring stakeholders from organizing committees, the IOC, and governments together throughout the process, from bidding through to post-Games.

"Having regular meetings to discuss the situation and key strategy to be decided upon, in the future we believe will be very important in the management of the Games," Dubi said.

The IOC has also rolled out its new bid plan called the "New Norm" to lower costs for Olympic bidding and hosting.

While the IOC is learning from past mistakes, Dubi said that attempts to work with the Crivella administration through the Rio 2016 team have not been successful. He said that there have been attempts to speak with the administration while Pinto asserts that so far "the undersecretary of the Olympic legacy has not [been] sought by the IOC".

Despite this, Dubi maintains the IOC "was and is a partner" to Rio de Janeiro.

Discussions with Korean and Japanese authorities remain ongoing as the IOC works to shore up PyeongChang’s legacy and preemptively mold Tokyo’s.

Currently three venues in PyeongChang are without concrete legacy plans, although government officials are meeting next month to discuss. The IOC says it is using the lessons it found on theground in PyeongChang to help advise the next set of bidders for the Winter Olympics.

"One of the elements we were always pointing to is the over-capacity that is built in the system," Dubi said. "The data capture which we have done in PyeongChang, which was extremely detailed, will allow us to learn a lot from PyeongChang which will feed into projects for 2026."

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has outlined its legacy plan in a document entitled the "Facility Management Plan for New Permanent Venues," which was published last April. TMG spokesperson Kyoko Yamaguchi told ATR the plan was designed "based on our assumption and study of the various usages and the needs" of the city of Tokyo, while considering mistakes of other cities.

"We have been considering the Post-Games use since 2014 while widely listening to the opinions from outside experts, national federations, and private businesses and local governments," Yamaguchi said. "However, we have heard not-so-good-news on the Post-Game use operations at the Rio 2016 Games as they couldn’t find the appropriate venue management companies. Also as for the PyeongChang 2018 Games, some of documents provided from POCOG indicate that some venues still don’t have the potential venue management companies yet."

The IOC consistently touts a savings of $2 billion on the current budget projections for Tokyo, and believes the city will have an easy transition into legacy mode.

"We have additional staff in the IOC on board to look into these specific matters, its legacy and sustainability both," Dubi said.

Written by Aaron Bauer

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