All eyes on Rio

What to expect from South America's first-ever Olympic Games in the vibrant Brazilian capital city

By Chris Pollard, Director, Strategy

Just a few days ago the Olympic Cauldron was lit in Rio, marking the start of the first-ever Olympic Games in South America. It’s been a long and at times difficult road to the start line for the event’s organisers, so what have we learnt along the way and what can we expect from the coming two weeks?

The challenges that Rio has faced in the lead-up to the Games have been well-documented. Back in 2009, when Rio was awarded the Games, Brazil was riding the wave of an economic boom, and the country was looking forward to hosting the two biggest sporting events on the planet, having been awarded the 2014 FIFA World Cup two years prior.

Fast forward seven years and the Brazilian economy is in its worst recession in more than a century, its president is facing an impeachment trial and the Zika virus has led to international public health concerns. While these circumstances were unforeseen and out of organisers’ hands, these aren’t the only issues that the Brazilian authorities have faced.


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Part of Rio’s bid, to clean up Guanabara Bay, has not fully materialized, several Games venues experienced construction delays, and corruption allegations and cost over-runs plagued many infrastructure contracts associated with this showpiece event.

Brazil is certainly not the first Olympic Games host city to experience construction projects finishing late and increases to the Games budget. We know from our experience at London 2012 that organising the Olympic Games is widely regarded as the most complicated project that a city can undertake.

Put into context, the FIFA World Cup involves an average of 100 hours of live sport across five weeks while the Summer Olympics is 11,000 hours of live sport in just 16 days. To deliver this, it requires effective coordination and integration of public sector agencies with hundreds of private sector organisations. Efficient governance structures and timely decision-making are crucial. Added to this, robust planning, project management and readiness programs must be run flawlessly. 


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So what makes Rio unique? The South American city is known, the world over, for the Carnival, Copacabana Beach and the stunning backdrop of Sugarloaf Mountain. It is these features, among many others, that will contribute to these Games being a huge success. With the sport now underway, the media focus is now turning towards Usain Bolt rather than Zika, Beach Volleyball rather than an impending impeachment, and the challenges in the build-up to the Games are quickly being overtaken by unforgettable performances on the field of play.

Footage of the magnificent Maracana hosting the Opening Ceremony, rowers competing in the shadow of the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the sailing competition being staged in one of the world’s most iconic bays will help Rio take its place in history, alongside London, as a truly unforgettable Olympic Games.


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Just like in London four years ago, our teams on the ground will be busy in Rio. We’ll be watching the fortunes of the Team GB athletes particularly closely having branded their pre-games training camp and Rio base. As we did at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we’re managing the event’s official mascots, Vinicius and Tom. We’re also working with a number of global and local brands to run hospitality programmes for more than 11,000 guests, provide merchandise and brand experience as well as manage 41,000 tickets. Part of this hospitality offering includes the PyeongChang House promoting the 2018 Winter Games in Korea, as well as the Holland Heineken and EY Houses. August 5th marked the end of the ‘Road to Rio’ for the seven National Lottery funded athletes, part of a media partnership with the Daily Mail that we have supported, who will be hoping for success in Rio. 

From the event organisers to the medal-hopefuls, the sponsors to the governing bodies, the years of planning are over, it’s time to once again enjoy ths extraordinary spectacle.