06 August 2012

London, We're Watching You!

As London braves the 2012 Summer Olympics, we're all watching very closely down here in Brazil. Some of us are not watching just for the fun of it either. Since Rio is slated to host the next Summer Olympics, in 2016, everyone who will be involved in that event is watching London's performance extremely competitively. They're watching to see what can be learned from London, they're watching to see what the pitfalls are that they'll have to try to avoid. There's a bit of gloating when it appears that London está pisando na bola — that's Portuguese for screwing up — and people here think they can do better. But Brazil is also quaking in its flip- flops, because Brazil after all is still Brazil. Brazilians, too, have a habit of fumbling the ball from time to time, they have an even worse habit of letting everything go until the last minute (that includes building the appropriate facilities), they, too, have chaotic traffic, and they even have a little violence problem.

Impossible not to have snafus in the course of such a massive event, with so many countries involved, and it's now widespread knowledge that in London the snafus began even before the Games officially started. There were security problems, transportation problems, failed ticket sales and diplomatic gaffes, just to mention some of what's been written about in the press. And then there was that . . . eclectic? . . . Opening Ceremony. Let's see how Brazil's Olympic Organizing Committee might evaluate its challenges in light of London's performance:

A humiliated Nick Buckles, G4S CEO
1. Security — The most serious of London's pre-Games fiascos was the hiring of a security company called G4S, "the world's leading international security solutions group," as their website boasts. Well, I don't know what world they think they lead in, but they didn't come close to delivering on their contractual obligations. Just days before the event the company's CEO announced publicly that he regretted having taken on the Olympics security contract, and agreed that his company's performance had been a "humiliating shambles." Wow. I'm sure Brazil feels it has security covered. The best news they got was that G4S will not compete in the bidding process, either for the 2014 World Cup (also to be held in Brazil) or the 2016 Summer Olympics.

2. Transportation — A couple of bus drivers who didn't know how to navigate the city streets of London got lost on the way from Heathrow Airport to the Athletes' Village? No worries, because on that score Rio probably has the upper hand. Getting all the way across London from Heathrow to the East End is kind of like trying to dribble a soccer ball through your opponent's defenders. For the land of Pele, Garrincha, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldhino and Neymar, the stretch between Galeão Airport here in Rio and the Olympic Village in Barra da Tijuca — that's a walk in the park.

The only map a Rio bus driver will need

Paulo Barros

3. Opening Ceremony — Okay, we've all Monday-morning-quarterbacked the topic of London's Opening Ceremony. Everyone's got an opinion or a dig. But after watching it, even Brazil's usually circumspect President Dilma immediately said that Brazil could do better. You want a spectacular show with thousands of cast members, lots of music, dancing, costumes, lights and special effects, all to go off without a hitch? Has anyone been to Carnaval here in Brazil? I mean, Brazil's been putting this show on for years. My advice? The Organizing Committee has only to turn to Paulo Barros, the most inventive of the current crop of carnavalescos whose genius would go a long way to making Rio's Opening Ceremony a stunner.

I remember the opinions Mark and I heard from two friends of ours after the 2016 Summer Olympic Games were awarded to Rio. One friend was adamant that the Games will never happen here. "There's no way Brazil will get such a complex event organized," he said. "Mark my words, the IOC will take the Games away from Brazil." But the other friend was unruffled. "No," he said. "The Games will happen here. They'll just happen in Brazil's way." Myself, I'm banking on Brazil.

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