How Rio 2016 could leave a legacy in urban planning

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The tough competition among major world cities to host the Summer Olympic Games every four years is a testament to how valuable they are seen to be. Yet some critics have pointed out how the failure to find a profitable use for some former Olympic venues in the aftermath of the games is a sign of failure to bring a long-term legacy by the host cities.

This is to think small, say EY Gustavo Gusmao, Government & Infrastructure, and Marcelo Lutterbach, Mega-Events. As part of the EY Brazil mega-events team, they have been advising the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) and local authorities since 2011 to help the 2016 Olympics deliver long-term value for the city and its inhabitants. The impact of the Olympics is about much more than the Olympic Park and other venues.
Looking to the broader impact

While some may see the Olympics as primarily a 17-day festival of sport — and opportunity to show off the host city’s credentials as a tourist destination — the organizers of Rio wanted to think bigger. They wanted to use the Olympics to build a better Rio, for residents and businesses alike.

Building the greatest sporting venues in the world is no use if people can’t get to them. Where some host cities already have well-developed transportation infrastructure, almost all need to think about improving the flow of people and materials within the city to help the games run smoothly. With the right approach, this can transform the city for the long term.

“Rio has been using the 2016 Olympic Games as a catalyst for change,” says Lutterbach. Before the games, Rio’s transport infrastructure was disconnected and underdeveloped. For much of the last 30 years, there has been insufficient investment to meet the city’s growing needs.

“This approach has set an example for other local and municipal governments,” says Gusmão. “They have much smaller budgets than national governments, so have to be much more creative in the way they bring in investments for their areas. Today, the PPP programs in Rio have become a benchmark for other cities in Brazil, and around the world.”

With a variety of different business models in place for different projects, the key has been encouraging investors to take a longer-term view. Unlike with some Olympics, which have seen venues abandoned after the games, this also provides the city with reassurances that the new infrastructure will be maintained and well run for years to come as the private sector investor seeks to recoup its initial investment over the long term.

Private sector involvement has also provided a significant benefit beyond just financing: an influx of planning, construction and organizational expertise that helped improve efficiency and kept the projects running on time and on budget. With Brazil facing a political and economic crisis in the years leading up to the Olympics, “if the city and federal government hadn’t brought in private firms,” Lutterbach said a month before the games were due to start, “we might now be facing a problem in terms of delivery. Not just because of the funding, but also focus and capacity.”


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