Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 42
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Issues arise, but so does hope for Olympics

Two months ago, International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates derided preparations for Rio 2016 as the “worst” he’d ever seen. The IOC, Olympic sponsors, federations and national Olympic committees were all concerned about the next Summer Games.

But as the World Cup progressed, attitudes shifted.

Olympic sponsors see Brazil’s ability to deliver the World Cup as positive for Rio 2016.

Security in Brazil was strong enough to stifle protests and limit crime; transportation had its challenges but was better than expected; and the festive atmosphere and warmth of the Brazilian population exceeded expectations.

All of that has relieved some of the anxiety across the Olympic industry and instilled some confidence in Brazil’s ability to host a successful Summer Games.

“One of the concerns was: Would Brazil be able to manage cities in terms of security, mobility and hospitality?” said Ricardo Fort, Visa’s senior vice president of global sponsorship. “We are confident now they will be able to do it [in Rio].”

John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s, agreed. “Regardless of whether it’s the World Cup or Olympics, there are going to be logistical challenges,” he said. “Traffic [was] an issue. Weather [was] an issue. But they have been able to execute the games on a timely basis. Our programs [ran] smoothly.”

Brazil is the first country to host the World Cup and Olympics since the U.S. (1994 World Cup and 1996 Atlanta Games). As a result, the World Cup was seen as a test event for Rio 2016.

There were concerns ahead of the World Cup about Brazil’s ability to provide enough security to limit and manage the type of protests that overwhelmed the 2013 Confederations Cup. But protests through the majority of the tournament were muted and the police presence was strong.

There were some complaints that the police presence was too great. In contrast to the recent Sochi Olympics where police often didn’t carry firearms, Brazilian security personnel carried automatic weapons. But the presence didn’t stifle the celebratory atmosphere around the World Cup.

“What everyone is hoping for in terms of atmosphere was on display during the World Cup and that means a lot to sponsors looking to bring down important guests for Rio 2016,” said Dave Mingey, president of GlideSlope, which works with IOC sponsor Dow Chemical. “The atmosphere created by the people of Brazil should be energizing and a lot of fun.”

Brazil’s execution of the World Cup wasn’t without its flaws. World Cup organizers were still finishing several venues in the days leading up to the first matches. That made it impossible for hospitality companies to visit the venues and make final plans for taking guests to games. They may face similar challenges at the Summer Olympics.

Rio 2016 organizers are still behind most host cities in construction and facility preparation for a Summer Games. They’re also working to construct 80 new hotels, and doing so will be critical to providing enough rooms for the influx of tourists during the Games.

There also is the logistical challenge of organizing and hosting 36 sports in a single city, which is different from hosting soccer games in separate cities. That will be the key to Rio 2016’s success, said Jan Katzoff, GMR Marketing’s head of global sports and entertainment.

“They did a good job delivering the World Cup but still have a lot to do to be prepared for all the moving parts of an Olympics,” Katzoff said. “While we’re encouraged, we want to continue to be diligent because there will be a higher stress level for Rio 2016 than there was for the World Cup.”