2016 Summer Olympics Preparation Lagging: ‘The Worst I’ve Experienced’

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, may still be a few years off but that doesn’t seem to bring much comfort to the Vice President of the International Olympic Committee, John Coates.

According to Coates, the preparation for Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics is “the worst I have experienced.”

The Olympic V.P. says the Brazilians are lagging “in many, many ways” and describes the situation as being even worse than the 2004 Greek effort of putting on the Olympics which had many biting their nails.

This was Coates’ sixth trip to Brazil as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission, and despite the seeming lack off coordination in Rio, he says the Olympics are going to happen there whether Brazil is ready by Summer 2016 or not:

“The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has formed a special task force to try and speed up preparations but the situation is critical on the ground,” said Coates, the Australian native speaking to an Olympic forum in Sydney, reflecting that construction setbacks are just the tip of the iceberg. “The IOC has adopted a more hands-on role. It is unprecedented for the IOC, but there is no plan B. We are going to Rio.”

Sending the additional Olympic preparation experts to the host city of an Olympics is unprecedented, according to Coates, and to still have major delays is obviously frustrating.

Another major red flag waving in front of the Summer Olympics planners is the reported issues Brazil has had while preparing for another major world event, The World Cup.

With only 100 days until their 2016 Olympic Host Brazil kicks off the World Cup, the International Olympic Committee is well aware of World Cup preparation problems with stadium construction and infrastructure. Brazil has also been plagued with social unrest that could dramatically affect both the World Cup and the Olympics:

“We have become very concerned. They are not ready in many, many ways,” said Coates. “And this is against a city that’s got social issues that also have to be addressed; a country that’s also trying to deal with the FIFA World Cup coming up in a few months.”

In fact for Coates, Brazil’s Olympic preparations hold even more challenges than the Athens’ Olympic Games, simply because of their three levels of government:

“I think this is a worse situation than Athens – In Athens, we were dealing with one government and some city responsibilities. Here, there’s three… There is bureaucracy, there is little coordination between the federal, the state government and the city — which is responsible for a lot of the construction. The flow of funds from the federal government is not happening quickly enough. We think we need to help facilitate that.”

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, isn’t pleased with the criticism and says that too many unnecessary demands are being made. Those demands include “large things” that Paes says the city won’t use after the Olympics are over.

Perhaps Mayor Paes visited Sochi recently or got a warning call from Putin?

Sochi GT
Many of Sochi's 2014 Olympic facilities are abandoned. Does Brazil want to avoid the same?

Either way, Coates believes the IOC has made their message clear to Brazil, and they will “make it happen.”

“If it comes off, the first (Olympic) Games on the South American continent, in a magical city in so many ways, it’ll be a wonderful experience for the athletes.”

While the World Cup is on a scale all it’s own and certainly no practice run for Brazil’s Olympics, it will offer a glimpse into how the 2016 Summer Olympics might also unfold.