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The best sport venues for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games are ready. They were built thousands years ago. Maybe million. It was not necessary concrete or steel. To maintain a good temperature, energy was not used. There is no ticket office, no tickets at all. There is no limit for capacity. Without using special effects, the cover is blue, but it can change its colour at sunset. None of these means that Gustavo Nascimento and his team will not have a lot to do in the next five years.
Thirty two years old and Carioca, the Organising Committee Sports Venues Design Manager has not found anything similar while traveling around the world the last years. No one has ever built anything like it.
"The highlights in terms of venues will be, at first place, the ones located in Copacabana beach, Beach Volleyball and Triathlon, and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas venues, Rowing and Canoe/kayak sprint – competitions usually held far from the Olympic city. They will be disputed in the heart of the city and will express Rio de Janeiro and the Games atmosphere. At Lagoa, there will be 7,8km of people watching the competitions”, celebrates the responsible for the Games competition area projects, an intersection between Sports and Venues Departments.
“We need venues that can be inserted into city’s icons. Rio de Janeiro doesn’t need more icons. We have Corcovado mountain, Sugar Loaf mountain, Maracanã, the nature and our people. They are our icons. The architects that work in Rio have to be aware of these things. They cannot dare to do anything that doesn’t fit the scenario, the informal atmosphere, beautiful, that is the mantle of those sites. It is a very different task to design a stadium in London or Beijing”, he says.
In Rio, Athletics competitions and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will take place, for the first time, in different stadiums, João Havelange and Maracanã stadiums, respectively. He points this aspect, together with the technical excellence of the National Shooting Centre, sport reference in the world, as the highlights of the Rio Games. They are part of the 47% of existing venues that will be used in 2016. There will be 28% of new permanent venues and 25% of temporary.
“The Olympic Movement tends to use more temporary venues nowadays. You cannot have your brand linked with white elephants. If you cannot give a future function for that, find a function of 30, 40, 50 years of cycle life for a determined venue, make it temporary, even if it sounds expensive”, says the architect, master in Civil Engineering, that has worked for the Vancouver 2010 Organising Committee for the Winter Olympic Games, from where he brought key experiences.
“The Venues Department attends demands of the Sports Department, but the attention has to be divided with other functional areas. The catering manager needs a determined space, a determined flow, needs to accommodate certain types of equipment. The host broadcasting manager has the same need, and so it goes. When all demands are combined, it is necessary to ponder. The goal is to obtain technical excellence in terms of sport. That is why the competition areas have to work perfectly. In Vancouver, the budget, the reach and the visibility were smaller, but the process is exactly the same. Understanding how the functional areas work and what they need, the relation with the government, private initiative and IOC, was the first step to realise what is the most important thing regarding a competition venue. I brought this cognisance from Vancouver.”
One of the goals of the Sports Venues Design department is to deliver the venues as soon as possible, in order to enable Brazilian athletes to get familiar with them, because they are crucial to their performance and results. This is the case of Golf and Road Cycling, for example. It is what we call home advantage. According to Gustavo, the benefits to compatriots end there.
“Proposals related to venues come from the Organising Committee, then submitted to International Federations and approved by the International Olympic Committee. In the case of Tennis, for instance, in which the choice of floor is crucial, the Federation suffers a strong pressure because, if the floor is not the one used in the professional season, athletes can choose not to play. It is a political decision”, he comments.
“In Road Cycling, you will be at the end of the season. The athletes are tired, bruised. In the Olympic circuit, as you have athletes from countries with tradition in the sport and from others with almost none, if you choose to have a very difficult circuit, the result discrepancy will be big, coming to a point that stragglers become a problem to the event. The guy ends the race so late that he becomes a problem. All of that is taken into consideration when designing the course”, he completes.
What cannot be measured
To Gustavo, athletes arriving in the finish line of the Marathon in Athens 2004, in the historic stadium of Panathinaikos, is an inspiration by its symbolism. The new New York Yankees stadium, base of the USA team, the new Wembley, the Jump track in Innsbruck, Austria, and the London Velodrome – “breathtaking work of art”, in his words – are references. More than aesthetics, the functionality is the way to success in each of them.
“Success will be to look behind and see what we have done for this city, but not regarding infrastructure works. We will see that we were also part of things that cannot be measured, as bringing back the love for its home town to every Carioca. I am sure that we will be remembered within the next 20, 30 years as a major watershed in Rio de Janeiro. There are some things that come and go in life, but this will never disappear.”
For the next five years, Gustavo and his team will have the city as a laboratory. Their mission is to design Rio to the world. For those who can see, the sunset is the background. For those who can feel, the special effects are not necessary. The Brazilian setting for 2016 was made ages ago.
Check out other interviews with other Rio 2016 Games' Makers:
Carlos Arthur Nuzman
Rio 2016 Organising Committee employees