Quest for Gold on the Olympic Landscape

Ramy Salameh Culture and Arts

Not so long ago I wrote a blog entitled “Brazil ready for the Beautiful Game?” on the eve of the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014, stating that every major sporting event must put up with a ‘cloud of negativity’ in the run up to the opening ceremony Such negativity subsequently dissipates as soon as the Olympic torch is lit or first ball is kicked in the stadium; national pride and fervour takes over and positivity beams down upon the athletes.

However, since hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014, Brazil’s Olympic journey has encountered such seismic problems, ranging from the Zika virus to doping scandals, terrorism to security and cost versus legacy, that it begs the question about the desire to host future major events and their place in the world today. Will the doom mongers and doubters finally rise above the indefatigable ‘Olympic spirit’? With North Asia the next major focus for the sporting world over the coming years, we should not lose sight and actively promote the facts, the strengths and the successes of these mega-events.

It is without doubt that such events will always foster a long term economic benefit and provide the greatest opportunity to highlight best practise for the global events industry, which should be enough to overcome the bad and the bleak to enthral, inspire and provide a learning curve for the next event to be even better.

Maybe more focus should be placed on, and be as much about, the non-tangible effects that are overwhelmingly good for the host nation, aside from the well documented tangible effects; Brazil is getting ready to hold the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in South America – a major source of pride for the region. Following the success of the 2014 World Cup, the country has already shown that Brazil is a culturally rich country, with a friendly and welcoming population.

From a tangible perspective, there is always talk about ‘legacy’. For every Olympic Games held, it is not just about the events themselves, but the legacy left long after the medals have been awarded. For every R$1 invested in sports facilities for the Olympics, another R$5 are invested in projects for locals to benefit from. Many of the venues will be transformed into entertainment spaces. For instance, the Olympic Park will house temporary facilities, and the Arena of the Future will be dismantled and transformed into four municipal schools.

Additionally, there will be improvements in airports, urban mobility, international signage, security, and ongoing training in receiving international tourists. The Museu Cidade Olímpica (Olympic City Museum) is located in the Engenho de Dentro region of Rio, near the renovated Olympic Stadium, in a building that used to be a workshop for repairing railway trains and well over 300,000 international tourists are expected to visit the events.

Therefore, with the stage set, Brazil looks forward to welcoming the world once again. At the end of August they may sigh with relief that the events of 2014 and 2016, with its onerous duties and responsibilities, are over. But the country will be able to look back with a sense of immense pride and forward with a tint of gold on the horizon.