November 9 – Widespread celebrations across Brazil to mark the 1,000 day anniversary until the beginning of Rio 2016 have been highlighted by the unveiling of an observation tower within the Olympic Park.
The celebrations offered the Games organisers a positive reprieve from the widespread criticism they have faced over public protests and construction plans allegedly running behind schedule.
The tower, standing at nine metres high, was climbed by a group including Carlos Nuzman, President of Rio 2016, the executive secretary of the Sports Ministry, Luis Fernandes and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes.
At this stage these “important venues” are still in the early phases of construction but, when pressed, Nuzman expressed his “absolute confidence that all the construction projects will be delivered in the timeframe we expect,”
From the tower, the early stages in the construction of the Tennis Centre, as well as work on the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), the Main Press Centre (MPC) and the three sports halls which will host basketball, judo, wrestling, taekwondo and fencing action, can be seen.
The remaining three sport venues in the Olympic Park – the Velodrome, the Aquatic Centre and the Handball Arena – are due to start to be erected in the first half of 2014.
Preparations are also continuing outside the Park and – also to mark the anniversary – a tunnel which will link the city centre with future Games sites was also created via a dynamite explosion.
Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman and Rio Governor Sergio Cabra observe the creation of the new tunnel on the Transolimpica expressway as the 1,000 day countdown to the Olympics got underway with a bang
The celebrations did however, take place in a context of criticism following recent problems.
Last month a national auditing office check on Games finances showed preparations behind schedule with earmarked state cash largely unspent, and the full budget is yet to be revealed.
In addition, as revealed exclusively on insidethegames, a proposed more of the slalom canoeing venue to a location 700 miles outside Rio had to eventually be abandoned in the face of widespread opposition.
There has also been a continuation of the public protests during the Confederations Cup earlier this summer, and this week these protests allegedly contributed to the cancellation of the Soccerex Convention due to take place in Rio at the end of this month.
But there has also been acceptance of “steady progress” in International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission reports and these sentiments were endorsed by IOC President Thomas Bach.
“One thousand days remain until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games begin and young athletes across Brazil and around the world are dreaming about being part of this great celebration of sport,” he said.
“The Rio Games have inspired those young sports people, as well as many others, who see and understand the benefits that these Games will bring the citizens of the host city and Brazil long after the 17 days of competition have ended.
“These benefits include improvements in the city in terms of transport, infrastructure and social housing, and a considerable sporting legacy for Brazil.
“The 2016 organisers have already accomplished a lot, with more to come, and we look forward to seeing Rio’s project develop, as venues are delivered, test events begin, and the excitement grows across the country, helping to spread the Olympic values even further.”
Meanwhile, the 1,000 days to go celebrations also included the spelling out of letters spelling “1000” by thousands of schoolchildren, and several Olympians, in the Mangueirão Stadium.
Many of these schoolchildren then departed to the northern city of Belem to compete in the largest ever edition of the Brazilian School Youth Games.
Almost 4,000 athletes aged between 15 and 17 years old, from all states of the country, took part across 13 disciplines – with some of these aspiring to compete at the Games in 1,000 days time.
Alongside them were a group of Ambassadors including London 2012 gold medal winning judoka Sarah Menezes and marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the Athens 2004 bronze medalist who received the Pierre de Coubertin medal after being held up by a protester.
Agberto Guimarães, Rio 2016 Executive Director of Sport and Paralympic Integration, explained how the youth event is helping the 1,000 day celebrations to resonate throughout Brazil.
“An event like this is an excellent start for future high level athletes; it can multiply the contact with Olympic values and sports,” he said.
“Each of these 4,000 athletes will spread this engagement through their schoolmates, teachers, friends and family.
“Celebrating the 1,000 days to go milestone during the competition in Belém means touching the whole country with the spirit and magic of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games”.