Andrew Downie – Time, 09/16/2011
Out on the far west side of Rio de Janeiro, in a zone where a host of Summer Olympics events will take place five years from now, stands a great example of how to plan for a major sporting event. And how not to.
On one hand, there is the Athletes’ Park, an $18 million 1.3 million-sq.-ft. (123,000 sq m) space for competitors’ relaxation between events. Formally opened in July, the park was delivered early, on budget and will be a “legacy venue” that the general public can use before and after the 2016 Olympics. But just a few miles away is the 970,000-sq.-ft. (90,000 sq m) Pan village, built to house athletes during the 2007 Pan American Games. Today, almost four years after the athletes moved out and Brazilian residents moved in, part of the village and the roads around it have caved in, sunk by the effects of haphazard, last-minute construction. (See a long photographic history of Olympic politics.)
The question is, Which example will Brazil be known for after it hosts both the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics two years later? Aside from racing to build venues for those events, the country is adding the infrastructure necessary to meet the demands of its booming economy — and on both counts, Brazilians seem as anxious as they are energized. As encouraging as the Athletes’ Park may be, Brazil’s World Cup preparations are late and over budget, and officials now acknowledge they took so long to start work at some sites that temporary structures may have to be used. The proposed bullet train between Rio and São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, stalled in the planning stages. More generally, public-works programs across the country are routinely late, over budget and subpar: new metro lines often shut down during rush hours, cracks have appeared in recently built government buildings and highways have developed craters just months after being inaugurated.