Olympic preparations reshaping Rio

Rio de Janeiro, Aug 31 (IANS) The 2016 Olympic Games are reshaping Rio de Janeiro as the Brazilian city prepares to host the world’s biggest sporting event.

Already one of the most beautiful cities in South America, Rio is getting a face lift, upgrading its transportation system, renovating sports venues and boosting tourism facilities, reports Xinhua.

“This will be the biggest urban redevelopment project since the 1992 Barcelona Games transformed that city,” Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said at a ceremony earlier this month here, counting down a year to go before the Games.

Brazilian officials are currently organising trial runs for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held from August 5 to 21, to put the stadiums and other facilities to test.

“The world will talk about one Rio de Janeiro before the Games and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Games,” said Bach.

Rio’s residents stand to benefit most from the upgrade in infrastructure.

According to Rio city government, out of a total budget of 38.7 billion reals for the Olympics, only 7.4 billion are for the matches. Most of the rest of the budget is for building permanent infrastructure, modernising transportation networks and other urban improvements.

“We attracted investment in the name of Olympics to do something for our city,” said Mayor Eduardo Paes.

Earlier this year, Rio was ranked as the third most congested city in the world but investment brought by the Olympics will help alleviate that.

The city plans to launch more subway lines and bus routes and to expand roadways, especially those connecting Olympic venues with the city’s upscale southern district.

By 2016, as much as 63 percent of residents will have access to high quality public transportation, up from 16 percent in 2009, when Rio was elected as host, officials say.

Currently, the bus rapid transit system has cut commuting time by an average of 40 minutes for those living in the suburbs.

Olympic venues, meanwhile, will later be transformed to benefit locals.

In the western Barra district, home to the Olympic Park, two out of nine stadiums will be handed over to area schools. The Future Arena, slated to host Olympic handball and Paralympic goalball, will be disassembled and its parts used to build four public schools. The Olympic Aquatics Stadium will be transformed into two aquatics centres and opened to the public.

In the city’s Deodoro zone, several sports venues will be turned into tourism sites with a new extreme sports park.

To accommodate the influx of tourists during the Games, the city has invested in building more hotels. Barra, which didn’t have many hotels as one of the city’s newer districts, is expected to have 12,800 hotel rooms by July 2016.

Barra is home to some of Rio’s best beaches, the biggest convention centre, camp sites, hiking and cultural activities, but its name is known almost exclusively to locals. As the games approach, however, the word is starting to get out out about Rio’s up and coming new tourism haven.

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