Complaints about delays with Olympic structures are not new.
Back in 1896 before the first modern games in Athens rumors persisted that the stadium would not be ready in time, writes The Guardian, “leading to a furious exchange of letters in the London Times.”
But the stories about the lead-up to Brazil’s 2016 games have been especially negative. You’ve doubtless all read about the challenges ranging from blocked toilets, roving gangs and unfinished infrastructure to toxic water, corruption and a political coup.
But that’s not the full picture. LA-based architecture and engineering company AECOM created the masterplan for the Rio Olympics and promises that Brazilians are going to put on a terrific games.
Bill Hanway is Global Sports Leader for AECOM, which also master planned London 2012 and is now working on LA’s 2024 Olympic bid. He joined DnA by phone while en route to Rio, having just met with LA 2024 officials to present ideas for their Olympic bid.
“The venues themselves are ready,” Hanway says. “They’re just having the final applications of Olympic overlay which is the banners and signage and all that put on now. Without question it’s been a race to the finish but everything seems to be getting in place.”
He says Rio wanted to avoid the creation of white elephants — costly, showy buildings that sit empty following the games, like the Herzog and de Meuron-designed Bird’s Nest in Beijing.
So the design philosophy has been one of reuse of existing buildings or creation of new buildings that can be disassembled and rebuilt as schools and other community buildings.
This approach has been referred to by Carlos Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 Committee, as “nomadic architecture.”
The handball venue, for example, is intended to be dismantled and remade as four 500-student primary schools in the city’s Jacarepaguá neighborhood.
The Olympics Aquatics Stadium is designed to be disassembled and rebuilt as two community swimming centers.
And as with London’s Olympic Park in its underserved East End, Rio’s Barra Olympic Park will be turned into public parks and private development after the Games.
All this came under the umbrella of a master plan designed by Bill Hanway and his team at AECOM, which built on a different kind of race.
The master plan involved taking the old Formula one track that was in Baja, the Western expansion zone of the city and a triangular site of about 120 hectares (or 250 acres) surrounded on two sides by a lagoon with the mountains and tropical rainforest behind it, creating a beautiful setting but presenting challenges for public transport and other types of movement and expansion.
The site says Bill, is fantastic, and he applauds especially the design of the new tennis stadium in the northern of the park, and the handball arena, both he says are great sports venues with “legacy value to think about.”
“What we are absolutely focused on is a financially viable game, entirely privately funded here”
The idea he says is to produce a games that doesn’t burden the taxpayer.
“What we are absolutely focused on is a financially viable game, entirely privately funded here, and we’ll be taking advantage of some of the great venues that are already in place and the world class venues that are at our disposal.
Every facility that you can think of — from the Convention Center to Staples to Stubhub Center to Galen — will all form part of a great game plan.”
He says the challenge in Rio, London, Sochi and many past Olympics was the building of brand new developments that have all the teething problems going from zero to 3,000 to 4,000 residential units in a single development in a short period of time and the associated costs with that.
In L.A. he says, we will use the dormitories at UCLA which are preexisting and absolutely beautiful, and already primed to serve “10,000 meals a day.”
“It’s ready made to become a fantastic Olympic village with all the sporting and training facilities in place.”
The aquatics venue, he says, will be a 20,000 seat temporary venue built on what is currently Dedeaux Field, a baseball stadium at USC.
And what about the L.A. Coliseum, first used in the 1932 Olympic Games and then again in the 1984 games in L.A.?
Hanway explains that with investment from UCLA, USC and the Olympics Committee, the Coliseum will be reborn as a state of the art world class athletics venue, and play a starring role in its third Olympics!