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Brazzil - Sports - January 2004

Olympics in Brazil: Does Rio Have What It Takes?

Brazil wants to host the 2012 Olympic Games and has already a
blueprint to back its candidacy. Security fears, however, have
been pinpointed as the main threat to the Brazilian bid. Although
Rio is unlikely to be an Al Qaeda's possible target, the city is
burdened by frequent drug war-related shootings.

Luis Waldmann


Brazil's Olympic Committee broke out of the doldrums on January 15th by outlining Rio de Janeiro's blueprint to face off against eight candidates, including front-runners Paris and London, and ultimately win the contest to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

"This is the moment for the Olympic Games to be held in South America," said Carlos Arthur Nuzman, head of Brazil's Olympic Committee. "The Brazilian bid has all the merits to host the Games in 2012."

If Nuzman's efforts prove fruitful, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics will be streamlined to four regions, all of which within a 14-mile radius, with Barra da Tijuca district alone concentrating more than 50 percent of the events.

"This project is magnificent, excellent, unique and historic because, for the first time, all the installations will be within the urban perimeter," said Nuzman.

To counter as momentous a venue as the Stade de France or a brand new Wembley Stadium in London, Rio relies on its natural beauties such as Copacabana Beach and the Guanabara Bay to give it an edge over its rivals.

The venerable Maracanã complex would host the main football matches; the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, a stone's throw from Ipanema, would be home to rowing and flatwater canoeing; and the Guanabara Bay would hold slalom canoeing and sailing.

Since Rio is already being spruced up to host the 2007 Pan Am Games, not only would it be able to become Olympics-grade on short notice, but the investment needed for such venture would be relatively marginal; less than half of the US$ 4.5 billion that spendthrift London unveiled as the cost to revamp its East End.

"The experience of promoting the 2007 Pan American Games will help in the organization of the 2012 Olympics," said José Alencar, Brazil's vice-president. "The government will not spare any efforts to host the 2012 Games."

On top of the US$ 1 billion the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will pledge to the winning city, the Brazilian government would earmark US$ 150 million and private businesses would tally about US$ 835 million.

In addition, Brazil's strategic time zone, located in-between Europe and the United States, would certainly cater to media conglomerates on either side of the Atlantic.

Security fears, however, have been pinpointed as the main threat to the Brazilian bid. Although Rio is unlikely to be on Al Qaeda's wish list of possible targets, it is burdened by frequent drug war-related shootings.

"Barbara Bush spent Carnaval in Rio just a few months after 9/11," said Marcelo Itagiba, Subsecretary of Public Security of the State of Rio de Janeiro. "There is no better proof of the city's safety than this."

The final vote is to be cast in Singapore on July 6th, 2005. Other bidding cities are Havana, Istanbul, Leipzig, London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris.

Luis Waldmann is a freelance writer based in Rio de Janeiro and can be reached at editor@bnbureau.com.br

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