Crisis at the Brazil 2016 Olympics

2016 RioI’ve been glued to the media over the past few days about the criticism on the preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. An International Olympic Committee vice president has taken the unprecedented steps of criticising the host countries progress as the “worst that  I’ve experienced”. With just over 2 years to go until the opening ceremony on the 5th August 2016, delays are mounting to the point that the IOC have stepped in as the “situation is critical on the ground”.

_66640759_150180860As a Project and Programme Director, I’m always fascinated with the details on why such high profile and internationally important projects run into such difficulties. Learning from examples as Brazil 2016 is key for me to ensure I don’t let my clients down. Having been a very small cog in the huge machinery of preparation for the London 2012 Olympics, I am all too familiar with the huge challenges, risks and simple unknowns involved with the implementation and delivery of such a high profile event as the Olympics. There is no plan B. The deadline is fixed, meaning costs will inevitably soar and ultimately quality will suffer as the deadline approaches.

The London 2012 delivery programme was designed to ensure that the key venues and infrastructure were finished one year in advance, in order to allow for sufficient contingency in case of delays, and more importantly for test events to be held in good time before the world’s eyes turned to London. The legacy of the 2012 games was just as important, as the fast track rejuvenation of London’s East end had to provide inclusive and sustainable long term lifestyle improvements for generations to come.

Unlike London 2012, Brazil 2016 seems to be suffering due to a number of problems. Firstly, the country is hosting the 2014 Fifa World Cup which many see as a huge distraction from the Olympics. There is hope that once the World Cup is complete, full attention will be turned to 2016.

Secondly, stakeholder management seems to be causing problems due to the need to coordinate three main bodies; the Federal Government, State Government and City of Rio. Bureaucracy and apparent insufficient coordination between the three is leading to slow financing of projects, within a backdrop of increasing public anger as many believe vital public funds are being diverted into two huge events which are not essential for the economy of a city which suffers from large areas of deprivation.

In order to quickly address the issues, the IOC is forming a taskforce to try and speed up the preparations and will spend more time on the ground in Rio directing efforts in order to resolve many of the problems. By applying an unprecedented “crisis management” approach, the IOC response will try and recover the situation to ensure the world’s greatest sporting event is a success for all, and more importantly the social and economic legacy is felt in Brazil for many years to come.



  1. Just how does the IOC choose its host countries? Is it all dinners and parties, gifts and promises? Does anyone assess a country’s viability?
    I am sure committees of committees are assigned the task…to this end?
    It would be better just to have Greece host the Summer Olympics each time in the same venues. But, that won’t happen….too many entrenched interests, including the IOC itself.

  2. The Olympics is about business and place marketing, not only about sports. Behind the television cameras and competitions, it is about landmark branding. Barcelona, which hosted the 1992 games, is often referred to as the best example where infrastructure investments came to benefit the place as a whole and in the long run. The Barcelona Olympic Village was built on land no longer suitable for heavy industry and now acts as a gateway between the waterfront and the city centre.

    Rio have so far significantly failed in taking the opportunity to bring positive energy and attraction to the place brand, as most of the reporting about the preparations have been about mistakes and problems. It is a major, major marketing failure and will be used for case studies in Universities and Business Schools for decades.

    Then the question where the decisions are made. Major events like the Olympics have a global circus of consultants, developers, service suppliers etc., who continously travels the Earth in their business. They are all very influential in the selection process of the host cities.

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