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Between the years 2008 and 2009, Argentinian Mario Cilenti travelled a distance of six and a half laps around Planet Earth. He visited over 50 countries in 15 months. He visited the five continents. He spoke to heads of government, leaders of the Olympic Movement, athletes and personalities. He had only one goal: to convince the world that Rio de Janeiro deserved to become the first city in South America to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
On 2 October 2009, the campaign promoted by Cilenti and all of the Bid Committee was awarded a historic victory. Rio 2016™ and the dream of its future Olympic and Paralympic Committees Director had come true. Through solid arguments and human relationships, the victory of the whole continent represented the summit of a 15 year long trajectory dedicated to major sporting events.
“I started participating as a volunteer at the Pan American Games at Mar Del Plata 1995. I wanted to take part somehow in that important moment for my city at that time but I had no experience. I was a volunteer at the Canada delegation. I lived in Canada from the 3 to 14 years old and realised that’s what I wanted to do. I later returned to Canada to have a paid job in the organisation of the following Pan American Games, which was going to be Winnipeg 1999. In the end, I was invited to work at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and my career took off”, he recalls.
His 18-month experience in Australia enabled him to receive offers from several organising committees around the globe. Cilenti opted for Manchester, UK, where The British Community Games were being held in 2002. Later, he returned to Canada to work for the Canadian Olympic Committee. An invitation by President Carlos Arthur Nuzman brought him to Brazil in 2004 for the organisation of the Rio 2007 Pan and Parapan-American Games.
A multicultural team for a world of diversity
The Argentinian worked in the areas of Planning, Games Services, and later as General Deputy Secretary of Operation, which proved to be a key contribution to the success of Rio, deemed to be the best of all times. After the Games, he worked for the Brazilian Olympic Committee as Technical Director for the 2016 Bid and, later, as International Relations Director.
At the Rio 2016™ Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Cilenti’s mission is to cater for over 200 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and 170 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs). To deal with a multitude of cultures, languages, customs, traditions and needs is the complex challenge the director will have for the next four years before, during and after the Games.
“This functional area will be divided according to the five regions of the world. Each management will be responsible for a region. Each professional is expected to deal with 12 to 15 countries, a year before the Games. We will be a team of about 50 collaborators and over 1,200 volunteers. The number of volunteers assigned for each country will be defined according to the size of the delegation”, explains the director, who highlights the key role of the volunteer programme.
“These volunteers are called ‘NOC assistants’. We will be having a multicultural team to deal with a world of diversity in terms of languages, cultures and demands. These people will have six-month training, will learn about all the service chain, from transport to food, safety, sports and much more. The level of complexity is huge, for they will be dealing with the consumers. They will certainly have a very intense Games experience”, he adds.
A city called Olympic and Paralympic Village
Mario Cilenti is also responsible for the operation of the Olympic Village, which will also be the Paralympic Village in 2016. The director participates in the process from the drawing of the plans of the buildings with engineers and architects until the post Games. Still in the planning phase, the Olympic athletes’ accommodation operation will involve about 18000 people:
“It’s a town with gigantic sizes of everything. It’s all multiplied by 18000. Think of a bed, it’ll be 18000 beds. Think of a pillow, it’ll be 18000 pillows. Bed linen, twice as much. And the same goes for the National Committees. If you need to approve flags and anthem, it’ll be 200 flags and 200 anthems. You have to think of a 5000 seat restaurant, a massive hospital. The buildings will be empty, we’ll be in charge of all the setup”.
One of Rio 2016™’s key principles is to treat all with the same high level of services. Some countries will bring two athletes while others will bring delegations of over 500 athletes. The most sophisticated National Committees have begun their visits to Brazil to start planning and choose their training venues with the assistance of Cilenti’s team. Other organising committees will come only in 2016 for the Games, or a year before, when the Rio 2016™ Organising Committee will be promoting a visit by all of the chefs de mission for a general assembly.
The huge challenge of uniting diversity in the Olympic Movement is a new experience for Rio, Brazil, and the South America that the director of relations with the world, a citizen without frontiers, has helped to conquer. For Mario Cilenti, the planet already knows. Dreams that come true are the specialty of the house.