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Rio's Pan American Games Rush
[Opinion] With six months to go, delays put success of the event at risk
Alan Mota (al0021)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-05 10:41 (KST)   
Following the example of Santo Domingo, host of the Pan American games in 2003, everyone is rushing to get Rio de Janeiro ready for the 2007 event.

In the streets however, the general feeling is of disbelief. The 2007 organizing committee and the politicians involved are thought to have made a mess of the preparations.

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Two of the main works, the renovations of the Maracana stadium, and its smaller twin, "Maracanazinho" -- used in indoor sports such as basketball -- stopped numerous times. Work at the Maracanazinho stopped for three months because the construction company went bankrupt.

There were also problems at the huge Jacarepagua circuit, a traditional racing circuit that once hosted a Formula 1 race and was host to the MotoGP Brazilian stage.

The construction project is supposed to add a velodrome for 3,000 people, an aquatic park for 10,000 people and an all-purpose arena for 15,000 people, along with a football field, but it has faced many delays.

The crisis cost the circuit and the city the MotoGP race, which has not happened in Brazil since 2005, and has no plans of happening in 2007. But at least there will be a happy ending. With a new international consortium the works are now ahead of schedule and the latest building, the velodrome, is scheduled to be finished by May. And for the racing fans, forsaken during most of the process, the consortium gave Herman Tilke and one more of his famous track designs, seen in the F1 circuits of China, Bahrain, Malaysia and Turkey.

But the worst cases have no prediction, or even hope, of a happy ending. The works at the "Deodoro Complex," a sports complex that will host equestrian competitions as well as field hockey, Olympic skeet, pentathlon, and archery, are scheduled to be finished by May, even though it is reported that the construction workers themselves don't believe it's possible.

Even further down the well is the rowing complex at the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. There were controversies over the unauthorized demolition of the old stands, which were considered architectural patrimony by a government organization. Then there were rumors that a mall would be built within the complex, and that the responsible company is not being allowed to build a garage for the boats -- indispensable for the event -- because of environmental non-viability. The sailing and rowing competitions are now at risk of not happening at all for lack of a venue.

With so many forgotten schedules and missed deadlines, and the desperation of the Brazilian people to see the games happen beautifully, many things went and still go unnoticed. And for some people, that's exactly what certain companies and key people in the administration want. Loads of extra money from city, state and national authorities have been poured in indiscriminately with the purpose of "getting things done."

At the Deodoro complex, the union (national government) first put R$45 million (US$20 million dollars) into the construction with no bidding. That was later raised to R$76 million (US$32 million) on a bidding, but the government itself admits that the works will cost R$94 million (US$41 million), more than two times the first estimated value.

On the works at Maracanazinho, the price tag went from R$71 million (US$34 million) to R$92 million (US$45 million) for the state government's stake. Now, with the national government's plea to add extra money for the construction, the cost will rise to R$110 million (US$52 million).

However, nothing comes close to the 45,000-seat Joao Havelange Stadium construction. After running through several deadlines, the stadium is now considered a minor concern. Although it doesn't justify the astonishing change in price from R$60 million (US$28 million) to R$225 million (US$108 million) to R$315 million (US$152 million), a five-fold increase.

Episodes like these, when properly revealed, have been driving more and more people into losing the hope that, with an event this big, the city -- and maybe even the whole country -- and its people would "grow up," financially as well as ethically. What was seen in Barcelona with the 1992 Olympic Games and more recently in Germany with the World Cup -- considering the proportion of the events -- have become farther and farther away from reality in Rio.

What was once an event destined -- according to its organizers -- to revolutionize the city's transportation system, tourism, and sports structure, and put the city at the center of the map for tourists around the world, is now a liability. The Brazilian people can consider themselves victorious if they simply manage to avoid the pillaging of taxpayers' money and the structures are ready on time.

It is certain that the games will happen, but what is not certain is whether they will raise up or damage the country's reputation.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alan Mota

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