Rio Gets Ready

Business Traveler (USA) - - WORLD WISE - El­iz­a­beth Atkin­sonon

Paris would not be the same to­day with­out the Eif­fel Tower. Seat­tle’s sky­line is dom­i­nated by the Space Nee­dle. Bei­jing has The Wa­ter cube, where Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals. Lon­don has Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park. Host cities of ma­jor events – a World’s Fair, the Olympics or a World Cup – change their foot­prints thanks to global gath­er­ings for shar­ing art, de­sign ed­u­ca­tion and sport.

This sum­mer eyes across the globe are fo­cused on Rio de Janeiro for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. And while the ath­letes steal the spot­light – and rightly so – there’s a side we don’t of­ten think about: The busi­nesses and ser­vices that sup­port these games and in­fra­struc­ture changes to host an event of this cal­iber.

As I write this, the Olympic Torch is mov­ing around the world slowly build­ing the buzz that comes ev­ery two years. At the cer­e­mony that kicked off the torch run, In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Thomas Bach said,“The flame is an an­cient sym­bol of peace and har­mony, a sym­bol of the power of hu­man­ity to come to­gether de­spite our dif­fer­ences. This will be the great­est legacy of the Olympic Games for Brazil and for the world.”

It is a rare event that wel­comes fire on board an air­craft, but the Olympic games are just such an event. LATAM Air­lines cre­ated a spe­cial sup­port struc­ture to se­cure the lamp car­ry­ing the Olympic flame across the ocean, and on Au­gust 5, the flame will open the XXXI Olympic games and Rio will for­ever be changed.

Olympic host cities have fared dif­fer­ently over the past 50 years. Those with great fore­sight and in­ge­nu­ity plan for the post-games ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the bid­ding process. Ques­tions must be asked. Will the com­mu­nity be able to main­tain these venues af­ter­wards or should plans be mod­i­fied?

In Lon­don, the host of the 2012 Olympic Games, the East End was trans­formed with new fa­cil­i­ties and greatly im­proved pub­lic trans­port. But much of the trans­for­ma­tion is still un­der­way. In 1992 Spain used the Olympics in Barcelona to­gether with the World’s Fair in Seville as a sort of com­ing out party. Barcelona added roads and new green ar­eas and two miles of beach­front that didn’t ex­ist be­fore. The $11 mil­lion bud­get ran over but has put Barcelona back on the map; to­day it’s the fourth-most-pop­u­lar travel des­ti­na­tion in Europe fol­low­ing Lon­don, Paris and Is­tan­bul – much big­ger cities.

Cities that have uni­ver­si­ties have fared bet­ter in their postO­lympic lives.Venues can be ab­sorbed by cam­puses and used to sup­port stu­dent ac­tiv­i­ties. For ex­am­ple, in At­lanta, the for­mer Olympic swim­ming and div­ing venues were taken over by Ge­or­gia Tech and con­tinue to be used by NCAA ath­letes.

The goal of all host cities is to lever­age as much of the eco­nomic re­sources put into the games to make the com­mu­nity bet­ter and stronger – but it isn’t easy.

In Rio and the sur­round­ing host cities, 48,000 ho­tel beds have been added to pre­pare for the del­uge of Olympic faith­ful. Prop­er­ties have few va­can­cies for the up­com­ing games, but will they weather the post-Olympics eco­nomic storm? We will have to wait and see.

LATAM Air­lines has sched­uled 100 ad­di­tional do­mes­tic flights in Brazil and has the abil­ity to add 200 more. Dur­ing the past year air­line em­ploy­ees have done thou­sands of hours of plan­ning and ad­di­tional train­ing to en­sure smooth tran­sit for cus­tomers and their lug­gage. A spe­cial con­trol cen­ter will be staffed 24/7 dur­ing the games to ad­dress any chal­lenges.

As the cal­en­dar races to­ward Au­gust 5, I await the spec­ta­cle and won­der of the open­ing cer­e­monies for an event that brings the world to­gether to cel­e­brate the motto for 2016,“Live your pas­sion.” For two weeks we’ll share in the tri­umphs and de­feats, the hu­man sto­ries that are the Olympic games. Rio will be trans­formed. And so will the peo­ple who have done the work who make this epic event pos­si­ble for all of us. BT

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