A look ahead: how the Games will begin
FROM the glorious Maracana Stadium to a sewagefilled bay, a huge variety of settings will greet athletes and sports fans at the Rio Olympics next month. This is the first time a South American city has hosted the Summer Games, and the challenge has been made all the harder for Brazil since the economy skidded into deep recession.
The good news is that all stadiums and arenas have been declared complete, barring the odd cosmetic tweak. The main concern is whether a revamped transport network will be ready for the August 5 opening ceremony.
Brazil’s most iconic city has been split into four hubs for the Games.
The main complex is the Olympic Park in the well-off western Barra da Tijuca area, which notably will have the tennis, most swimming, gymnastics, judo and wrestling events.
Deodoro, a modest neighbourhood in the northwest of Rio that doesn’t usually see many tourists, will host competitions including equestrian events, field hockey, rugby sevens and canoeing.
Neighbourhoods at or near the famous Copacabana beach in southern Rio will host sailing, rowing, long-distance swimming events and beach volleyball.
Some of the most glamorous events – the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics competitions – will take place in two northern football stadiums: the beloved Maracana and Joao Havelange Stadium, now renamed Olympic Stadium.
The football tournament will be spread around the country at former 2014 World Cup sites, before final rounds play out in Rio at the Maracana and Olympic stadiums.
Sailing and windsurfing will be based at Marina da Gloria, near Copacabana, with the courses out in Guanabara Bay. Aquatic marathon and triathlon swimming will take place off Copacabana beach.
But decades of pollution have put the beautiful Guanabara Bay in danger of ecological ruin and there are fears for the health of athletes.
Authorities had promised a huge clean-up, with reform of the city’s sanitation system so that at least 80 percent of sewage reaching the sea would be treated. That goal was abandoned and ecologists say that currently no more than 50pc of sewage is treated.
Guanabara Bay also sees vast amounts of floating garbage, such as plastic bags and bottles. Trashcollecting boats will encircle the sailing courses to try to prevent anything getting in the way of the speeding boats.
Reports of oil spills, a drugresistant superbug, and even a human arm reportedly found floating in Guanabara in February have added to worries. But on television at least, the sailing events will be among the most photogenic of the Games.
Rio de Janeiro is a sprawling place divided by steep hills, favelas and traffic-clogged roads, so transport can be challenging.
Organisers hope to have solved that problem with a new metro line and an express bus system called the BRT that they say will zip between the four sporting hubs.
But the city is on tenterhooks over whether the metro extension – the biggest infrastructure project in the city – will be ready. It’s only due to open four days before the opening ceremony, which is practically last-minute in terms of such a vast undertaking.
Even if it does open, use will be restricted to people with Olympic event tickets. The general population will only be able to use the new metro after the Games. – THE Court of Arbitration for Sport said yesterday it has put back its ruling on the two-year doping ban for Maria Sharapova for two months to September, ruling the tennis superstar out of the Rio Olympics.
The 29-year-old Russian, one of the biggest names in tennis, tested positive for the banned medication meldonium during January’s Australian Open, in a severe blow to her reputation.
If the ban – which Sharapova has called “unfairly harsh” – is upheld it would almost certainly end one of sport’s most celebrated and high-profile careers.
“Maria Sharapova and the International Tennis Federation [ITF] have agreed to defer the CAS decision until September 2016,” said a CAS statement.
“Due to the parties requiring additional time to complete and respond to their respective evidentiary submissions, and several scheduling conflicts, the parties have agreed not to expedite the appeal.
“A decision is expected to be issued by September 19, 2016.”
The original ruling was expected by July 18, with Sharapova hoping that a successful appeal would have allowed her to spearhead the Russian tennis team in Rio.
Russia’s participation at the Games, which begin on August 5, is already under fierce scrutiny after its track and field team was banned for separate state-sponsored doping.
Sharapova’s ban was backdated to January 26 this year, when she tested positive for the prohibited substance.
Meldonium was added to the world anti-doping WADA list on January 1. Sharapova said she had been taking it for 10 years to help treat illnesses, a heart issue and a magnesium deficiency.
The CAS statement added, “In her appeal to the CAS, Ms Sharapova seeks the annulment of the [ITF] tribunal’s decision to sanction her with a twoyear period of ineligibility further to an anti-doping rule violation.
“Ms Sharapova submits that the period of ineligibility should be eliminated, or in the alternative, reduced. The final decision will be announced and published by CAS when it is available.”
The former world number one and five-time Grand Slam champion, who is based in the United States, told a packed press conference in Los Angeles in March that she had failed a dope test at the Australian Open and admitted making a “huge mistake”.
“I let my fans down. I let my sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply,” added Sharapova, her voice wavering. –
The interior of one of the new metro stations looks ready, but many have questioned whether it will be finished in time.
Sharapova’s appeal has been delayed.