IOC member claims successful Rio de Janeiro Olympic legacy
Photo: Matt Kieffer/Flickr
29.08.2017By Mads A. Wickstrøm
Amidst numerous corruption investigations, Rio de Janeiro’s economic and political problems continue to affect the state capital, following the 2016 Olympic Games. The State Government has imposed severe austerity measures on public services including hospitals, police stations and schools. Furthermore, a large number of Olympic venues sit empty and have been left deteriorating, while Rio 2016 organisers have failed to pay off debts and deliver on several legacy promises such as cleaning up the polluted waters of the city’s Guanabara Bay.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, and President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno says that the problems currently facing Brazil are not caused by Rio 2016. Instead, Moreno insists that bringing the Olympic Games to Rio “has provided a number of bright spots of progress in an otherwise difficult situation”.
“Even before the Opening Ceremony, the Games directly or indirectly created thousands of badly needed jobs," Moreno told South Korean news agency Yonhap, on Sunday.
Moreno cited a study claiming that per capita income in Rio de Janeiro had increased by over 30 percent in the years between 2009 and 2016, more than any other city in the country. In his statement, Moreno added that public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects have created a benchmark for “one of the most far-reaching Games legacies”.
“Private entities financed about 57 percent of Games infrastructure, which allowed each Brazilian Real invested by the authorities to generate additional benefits for the city. The Games also accelerated job-generating public investments in transport improvements that have already added over 170 kilometers of subway, light rail and bus rapid transit lines. These projects continue to benefit Rio commuters and visitors every day,” Moreno said in his statement to Yonhap.
Additionally, the Olympic Games in Rio led to a record increase in visitors to Brazil in 2016, resulting in US$ 6.2 billion boost for the economy, he argued.
However, Moreno acknowledged that post-Olympic plans had been delayed due to Brazil’s political and economic problems.
“Brazil overcame many obstacles and proved the sceptics wrong, with Games that not only delivered spectacular competition, but also showcased the country's magnificent spirit. It will take time and a strong will to see it through, but I am confident that Brazil will prove the sceptics wrong again,” he said.
The same as before
British newspaper The Daily Mail writes that the cost of keeping the Olympic park running could reach as much as £31 million (US$ 40 million) by 2041. Furthermore, Rio’s city council is burdened by large monthly expenses renting more than 3600 apartments in the Athletes’ Village, which still lies empty. Today, locals argue that hosting the Olympic Games has brought about little change.
“I believed them when they promised to finally clean up the water. But absolutely nothing was done. It was just said to win the Games. They never had any intention of cleaning it up. Now almost everything is worse, health, security, education. There is no Olympic legacy for the people of Rio,” Antonio Maggi a former fisherman in Rio de Janeiro said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
Brazilian athletes have also criticised the lack of social and economic progress following the city’s hosting of the Games. Diogo Hubner, who won a medal with Brazil's handball squad argued that the that athletes’ working conditions have yet to improve.
“I hoped the Olympics would bring great things to Brazil, although I feared it might not. Today everything I see confirms my worst fears. The Olympic party was so big that it covered up everything that would ruin it, the corruption and backhanders. Companies that sponsored us left, nobody wants to know anymore. Sadly, our lives are the same as before, with the same problems of finding money. All that we hoped for never happened,” Hubner told the Daily Mail.
Earlier this month, IOC President, Thomas Bach said that Brazil should be given more time to deliver on the legacy promises made prior to the 2016 Olympic Games.
“You have to take into account the extremely difficult situation in Brazil which is the worst crisis this country has ever gone through,” Bach told reporters at a press conference in London.
“In such a situation, not all the legacy plans are coming to fruition ... in the time they were planned for,” he added.
Bach pointed to London where the Olympic park was closed for a year after the 2012 Games.
“We have to be fair there with the Brazilians. After the games here in London the park was closed [...] to do the refurbishments and to make the adaptations,” Bach noted.
“You have to give this opportunity to Rio 2016 and, given the very difficult circumstances, give them an extension of this time because, maybe in this emergency situation, they have other priorities,” he said.