Rio de Janeiro:
Ready or not, the Rio Olympics are opening their doors. The Games begin in just over two weeks, but the Athletes Village opens officially today, meaning 10,500 athletes and another 7,000 staff members will start trickling into the luxurious layout, with the pace picking up daily until the August 5 opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.
The 31-building compound should pamper the world’s best. It’s set among tennis courts, soccer fields, seven
swimming pools—with mountains and the sea as a backdrop— and topped off by a massive dining-kitchen compound that’s as large as three football fields.
“I want to help all the athletes have a wonderful welcome to Brazil,” said Priscilla Antonello, a residence center deputy manager whose job is to help athletes find their accommodations. Will she be star-struck by so many Olympians?
“I couldn’t be in this job if I behaved like that,” she replied yesterday, standing on the 13th floor of one of buildings, gazing out over cycling paths, bubbling fountains and lots of green.
She already knows which countries will be where, but she’s not allowed to say. Some delegations had already arrived yesterday, easy to spot with banners or flags hanging off the sides of buildings.
Slovenia had the best banner. In green and white it says: “I Feel sLOVEenia.” The LOVE portion was set off in white type, making sure the message got across.
Another read: “All for Denmark.” Banners or flags from Canada, Britain, Portugal, Finland and Sweden were among those spotted. A tiny red and yellow Chinese flag was pinned near the top of one of the compounds.
Everything about the village is massive, though fairly standard for recent Summer Olympics.
Organizers say the compound has 10,160 rooms; 18,000 beds; seven laundries; an enormous, hospital-like clinic; a massive gym.
In addition, organisers are providing 450,000 condoms, three times more than London did four years ago. Among them will be 100,000 female condoms. Organisers said this is to encourage safe sex. Many had considered that increased supply to be due to Brazil’s outbreak of the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects.
Then there’s the dining-kitchen area, a sprawling tent where officials expect to serve about 60,000 meals daily to Olympians and staff—and perhaps another 10,000 daily to the hired help.
“The hardest part is knowing how much to prepare,” said Flavia Albuquerque, who oversees Rio’s food and beverage service. “We want them to eat anything they want to.”
That will be easy. The choices are nearly infinite. Diners will choose from different buffets—Brazilian,
Asian, International, and Pasta and Pizza. Then there’s a casual dining area that will feature barbeque.
“The casual area might be the most popular,” Albuquerque said.
There will be lots of dirty plates, but none to wash. The plates will be biodegradable, made of corn and sugar cane. Brazilians figure their food will be a hit: rice, black beans, farofa (flour from toasted cassava often sprinkled on top of food) and meat. And Brazil’s exotic juice will be popular: caju, acai, carambola, caqui, goiaba and maracuja, often squeezed into juices—sucos in Portuguese.
Billionaire real estate developer Carlos Carvalho might have the only problem. He aims to sell the 3,604 apartments after the Olympics some in the range of 2.3 million (USD 700,000). Carvalho’s company Carvalho Hosken has declined to say how many have been sold, but reports say only between 6-10 per cent.
The project is a victim of Brazil’s deep recession, the worst since the 1930s.
Carvalho Hosken earlier said the project’s total cost was about $1.5 billion, including construction, land acquisition and other development costs.