Brazil ready for 2014 challenge, says minister
LONDON (Reuters) - Hosting the Olympics two years after staging the World Cup was always going to be a big task but the success of London 2012 has raised the bar even further, according to Brazil's deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes.
With the Olympic flame now out in London, all eyes turn to the south American powerhouse and the clock is already ticking for the 2016 Games.
Fernandes, who attended the Paralympic closing ceremony on Sunday, predicted that national pride would ensure the Games in Rio de Janeiro would be every bit as successful as London.
"I think it has made things more challenging because London has elevated the bar," he told Reuters at the Brazilian ambassador's residence in central London on Monday.
"The level of performance that is expected of us is higher now than ever. But on the other hand the success of London has made the Games more attractive to private investors and increased the goodwill about the Olympics."
Fernandes said comparisons between the two Olympics would be unfair but believed that staging the world's two biggest sporting events in the space of two years would drive Brazil forward.
"There is a big difference between hosting the Olympics in a city like London and one like Rio," said Fernandes, a soccer-loving Rio native.
"We are a developing nation and Britain is one of the richest countries in the world and has infrastructure that was already set up.
"The Olympics and the World Cup are a chance for intensifying investment in basic infrastructure which is crucial to national development. There is a very ambitious plan that has been set up which will make Rio a completely different city after the Games than it was before."
Around 100 members of Brazil's organizing committee observed the London Games first-hand which was an invaluable experience, said Fernandes.
"The overwhelming feeling was that London did a great job," he said, emphasizing the key role played by the thousands of volunteers which gave the Games a "friendly face".
"It was a very well organized Games and everything functioned adequately with no major problems. The key was that they had prompt solutions to the problems that came up so that they didn't become a crisis," added Fernandes.
"I lived in London 20 years ago and I think it's fair to say that Londoners are quite reserved and not so open. But the enthusiasm of the volunteers contaminated the whole Games."
Rather than saddling the country with a weighty burden, the two projects will cost around $26 billion between them, Fernandes believes hosting the World Cup two years before the Olympics could prove beneficial, practically and in maintaining public enthusiasm.
"Many of the initiatives will cross over," he said. "Such as transportation and security. We had problems with the PanAmerican Games where city governments were put in control and they didn't deliver, then the federal government had to provide emergency investment late in the day.
"We have learned from that and have a matrix of responsibility in place.
"Also I've looked at graphs for public support for the London Games from winning the bid to this summer and it U-shaped. I don't think we'll see that dip because we have the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup which falls right in the middle of that usual dip in support.
"Hosting these events is a spur to nationalist pride. I don't know if it's about competing with the success of Britain - we'll do it the Brazilian way," said Fernandes.
"We will build a Games in the Brazilian fashion with a Brazilian flavor.
"We are very festive, a very strong culture, it's a party atmosphere," Fernandes said. "I think the enthusiasm we are seeing now will be sustainable."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)