LONDON (Reuters) - The Rio de Janeiro’s Olympics in four years will be modeled on London 2012 more than Beijing but will not really resemble either, the man whose brief includes steering one of the most crucial phases of Brazil’s development, said on Thursday.
Minister for Sport Aldo Rebelo, attending the opening of an exhibition at the Brazilian Embassy in London along with President Dilma Rousseff, is a year into a role that includes delivering the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
While accepting it is a gargantuan task, Rebelo, said Brazil, like London, would not disappoint.
“These are two major challenges,” he told Reuters, the day before the eagerly-awaited opening ceremony of the London Games.
“We have attached a great deal of importance to both and we have a tremendous respect for the challenges both projects throw up. I can tell you that challenges of this type and grandeur Brazil has faced in the past and it has risen to them.”
London organizers, with former Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe leading the way, enjoyed almost constant praise from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as it took on the 9.3 billion pounds ($14.60 billion) project to deliver the 2012 Games.
Rebelo said London had raised the bar but he was confident that once the baton is handed to Brazil on August 12, Brazil would prove itself equal to the task of staging the Olympics, two years after hosting the World Cup.
“London is the best possible,” he said.
”I think the London Olympics are going to be very well organized and have excellent infrastructure and I think this can help us in Brazil.
”Any games of this type and grandeur has standard practices that are repeated and certain things that change.
“The tendency in Brazil will be to adopt the model of London. We have also learned things from Beijing but I can tell you that we have to remember the specific character of Brazil and also of Rio de Janeiro.”
Political scandals, which led to the resignation of former Sports Minister Orlando Silva last year, and worries about the pace of constructing the Rio project had caused the IOC concern.
A recent IOC progress coordination commission visit to Rio praised organizers for making “great strides” but warned the organizing committee that the clock was ticking.
“The IOC is right to demand that construction is going at the right pace,” said Rebelo, saying he would be watching closely how London deals with the issues of transportation and communications during the Games.
“They have the guarantee that the works will be completed in time for the Games.”
However, Brazilian student Breno Ferreira, enjoying a carnival atmosphere just down the street as the torch relay passed Trafalgar Square offered a sobering reality check.
”Oh my God!“ he said when asked if Rio would be as prepared as London. ”Everybody was talking about the transport here and moaning but it’s great compared to Rio.
“In London I can walk around with no fear but in Rio the transport and security is not good. We must improve a lot.”
Rebelo, a member of the Communist Party who served in former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s left wing government, adopted the London 2012 mantra when insisting that hosting the Games will be a force for good across society.
“It is important that we leave a legacy behind, a material one, a social one and a spiritual legacy, values, these are not material things,” he said.
“We want Brazil to be seen as a country that balances economic progress with social wellbeing. This will be a very important message for the world.”
A country where soccer is treated like a “pagan religion”, according to Rebelo, he hoped that in London over the next two weeks and during the following four years, Brazil would un-tap its potential in a wider range of sports.
“Doing well in London will be a big boost,” he said.
“As well as building the infrastructure, we are going to train our athletes so we can set our targets high in 2016, perhaps not fourth position (like Britain) but certainly better than what we got in Beijing and will get in London.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar