WHAT CAN RIO LEARN FROM LONDON?

MEI's Brazilian Associate Director João Frigerio gives his opinion on what London 2012 can offer Rio 2016.

The 2012 Olympics are over, and London has delivered an amazing Games!

The flag was passed on to Rio, which now has exactly four years to follow the steps of its predecessor and enchant the world.

Of course, a lot has happened in the past fortnight, which makes it virtually impossible to one to list everything that Rio should take into account from what happened in London in order to organise their Games in Brazil. For that the IOC has its knowledge management programme. Nonetheless there are a few points that may be highlighted.

Originality

The first thing Rio must learn from London is that it must not attempt to copy the 2012 host city.

Four years ago, the Chinese stunned the world with its incredible opening ceremony. Since that day many worried: how could London follow that?
Well, they did it differently. And they did it well!

From the 8 minutes Rio had at the closing ceremony, it seems like they are in the right track. The presentation was full of clichés (samba, indigenous people and Pelé), but Brazilians are loved around the world for its clichés, and as it was presented with such good taste that it left the impression that the Cariocas too can deliver a memorable experience.

What to copy

If we are not talking about the exploits of the likes of Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, one of the most impressive things about this Games was the impeccable organisation. There are traffic jams in every big city in the World (whether they are hosting the Olympics or not) but the plans put in place to compensate the creation of special traffic lanes for IOC officials/delegations and increase of visitors worked quite well. It was impressive to leave a packed Wembley stadium and be able to take the metro just in front having to wait only a reasonable amount of time – but more importantly, without being squeezed and pushed around.

The clear signalisation all around London accompanied by the massive presence of well trained and friendly volunteers is also something to be emulated by Rio.

And finally, there was a good sense of safety in the city. The investment made in security for the Games paid off.

Problems to solve

Perhaps the most controversial problem the organisers had to deal with outside the sporting sphere (doping, match fixing, etc) at the Games was the one concerning tickets and empty seats, especially in the first week of competitions. Rio 2016 CEO Leonardo Gryner said that the local organising committee is already taking steps in order to guarantee that the problem is not repeated in Brazil.

While London dealt relatively well with transport issues, Rio citizens and visitors seem to be destined to suffer much more with that problem in four years’ time. Although Rio’s population is lower than London (Rio has nearly 6.5 million inhabitants while London has around 8 million), geographically Rio is on a narrow strip between the sea and hills with few options of roads linking the northeast part of town to the southwest part. The underground system is also relatively small, especially if you compare it to London (there are currently only 2 lines, with 35 stations spread across 41 km, while London’s underground has 11 lines and serves 270 stations with 402 km of track). There is a new line being built in Rio, scheduled to be ready before the 2014 World Cup.

Bad for London… could be good for Rio.

A collateral effect of the Games in London was the important decrease of ordinary tourists visiting the city. Most of the tourists went there for the Olympics. The “regular type” chose other destinations. Also, many locals chose not to participate in the festivities and instead went out less than usual during the past 2 weeks. In certain areas shops, hotels, museums, etc. reported up to 35% decline in their businesses, and parts of London looked like ghost towns. The fact is that people worried about exaggerated large crowds and traffic jams, and so they decided to stay away.

Hotel capacity in Rio is nearly 3 times lower than London, therefore a bit of that “displacement effect” probably would do no harm to the city. However Rio seems to be already more packed and chaotic than London as it is – even attracting much less international tourism – and it is very unlikely that the Brazilians (from Rio or other cities) will choose to not participate in the 1st Olympic Games in South America. Therefore, that is a “problem” that probably will not concern the local organising committee… unfortunately.

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