Glamor and garbage both in Rio spotlight

Updated: 2016-02-04 08:24

By Agence France Presse In Rio De Janeiro(China Daily)

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Games venues will showcase the good, the bad and the ugly

From the glorious Maracana stadium to a sewage-filled bay, a huge variety of settings will greet athletes and fans at the Rio Olympics in August.

This is the first time a South American city has hosted the Games, and the challenge has been made all the more difficult for Brazil since its economy went into freefall.

The good news is that almost all stadiums and arenas are either complete or 97 percent ready, according to organizers. But with Brazil's recession showing no letup, the pressure is on.

Rio, Brazil's most iconic city, has been split into four hubs for the Games.

The main complex is the Olympic Park in the well-off western Barra de Tijuca area, which notably will have the tennis, most swimming, gymnastics, judo and wrestling events.

Deodoro, a modest neighborhood in the northwest of Rio that does not usually see many tourists, will have sports including riding, field hockey, rugby Sevens and canoeing.

Sailing, rowing, long-distance swimming events and beach volleyball will be held at or near the famous Copacabana beach in southern Rio.

Some of the most glamorous events - the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics competitions - will take place in two northern soccer stadiums: the famous Maracana and the Joao Havelange, now also called the Olympic Stadium.

The soccer tournament will be spread around the country at former 2014 World Cup sites, before final rounds concentrate in Rio at the Maracana and Olympic stadiums.

The nearly finished Olympic Park includes the 19,750 seat tennis center, the 18,000 swimming center and the Maria Lenk diving and synchronized swimming pool.

The velodrome, capacity 5,000, is one of the few sites where work is dragging on, with only 80 percent completion. The tennis center is 97 percent ready, but the mayor's office recently broke off the building contract, citing poor work.

The Olympic Village, a complex of apartment buildings that will house the 18,000 Olympic and Paralympic team members, is near completion.

There has been controversy after a low-income neighborhood nearby was bulldozed last year to make way for the construction.

There have also been questions about the golf course built in the Olympic Park on an ecologically sensitive site.

Sailing and windsurfing will be based at Marina da Gloria, with the courses out in Guanabara Bay. Aquatic marathon and triathlon swimming will take place off Copacabana beach.

Decades of pollution have put the beautiful Guanabara Bay in danger of ecological ruin and there are fears for the health of athletes.

Authorities promised a huge cleanup, with reform of the city's sewage system so that at least 80 percent of sewage reaching the sea would be treated. That goal was abandoned and ecologists say that currently no more than 50 percent of sewage is treated.

Guanabara Bay also sees vast amounts of floating garbage, such as plastic bags and bottles. Trash-collecting boats will encircle the sailing courses to try to prevent anything getting in the way of the speeding boats.

Brazil's economic downturn and more than 10 percent inflation has forced organizers to cut their budget by about 10 to 30 percent.

One of the victims was a 4,000-seat grandstand that would have floated on the lagoon, called Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where rowing and canoe races will take place.

There were reports of similar cuts at the 12,000 capacity beach volleyball grandstand. The game is one of the most popular in Brazil and will take place on Copacabana beach.Glamor and garbage both in Rio spotlight

Ticket sales booming

About 75 percent of tickets available for this year's Olympic Games have been sold, Rio 2016 communications director Mario Andrada said on Tuesday, with fans snapping up 2.75 million tickets across 42 sports.

About 75 percent of tickets available for this year's Olympic Games have been sold, Rio 2016 communications director Mario Andrada said on Tuesday, with fans snapping up 2.75 million tickets across 42 sports.

South America's first Olympics will be held in the Brazilian coastal city from Aug 5-21.

Meanwhile, 330,000 tickets have been sold for the Paralympic Games, to be staged from Sept 7-18.

Andrada said ticket demand for Paralympic events was slightly down on expectations.

"We are involved in several marketing activities to increase ticket sales," he said.

The most sought-after events have been soccer, basketball, volleyball and athletics. Most Brazilian ticket buyers have come from the states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Bahia and the Federal Districts.

Andrada said he did not expect people to cancel trips to Rio for the Games as a result of the Zika virus outbreak, adding the organizing committee will follow travel guidelines issued by the World Health Organization.

Zika, transmitted by infected Aedes species mosquitos, has been linked to cases of microcephaly, which causes underdeveloped brains in babies.

 Glamor and garbage both in Rio spotlight

The gymnasium at the Pinheiros Club in Sao Paulo, where the Chinese Olympic team will train ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

(China Daily 02/04/2016 page23)