A look ahead: how the Games will be­gin

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

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. –

Photo: EPA

The in­te­rior of one of the new metro sta­tions looks ready, but many have ques­tioned whether it will be fin­ished in time.

Photo: EPA

Shara­pova’s ap­peal has been de­layed.

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