After scandal over files, London team arrives in Rio to share knowledge with 2016 hosts
Fireworks explode during the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
Published Friday, November 16, 2012 12:48PM EST
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- London Olympic organizers began arriving in Brazil on Friday to pass on their knowledge to the hosts of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The meetings come less than two months after nine Rio committee employees were fired for illegally downloading files from British organizers during the London Games.
London officials will spend nearly a week in Brazil sharing their experiences after seven years of preparations which culminated with successful games just a few months ago.
The official "debrief" will go ahead without IOC President Jacques Rogge, whose doctors advised him to skip the long flight to Rio following recent hip replacement surgery.
Rogge also wants to stay in Switzerland to monitor the cleanup of International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne following the serious flooding of the building this week caused by a burst water main.
"He will be working in Lausanne," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "His doctors told him to cut back on long-haul travel to be on the safe side. There is always a risk of thrombosis on a long flight."
IOC executive director Gilbert Felli and other top IOC officials will attend the Rio meetings, which will bring into focus the hard challenges facing Brazilian organizers with less than four years to go before the staging of the first Olympics in South America.
Also on hand will be organizers of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and 2016 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the three bid cities for the 2020 Summer Games -- Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo.
The sessions -- taking place from Saturday through Wednesday -- will allow organizers to review all aspects of the games, including planning, technology, transportation, security and accommodation. The discussions will also take into consideration the experiences of athletes, fans, volunteers and the media.
The Rio organizing committee is coming off major leadership changes and has huge preparation tasks ahead. Among the obstacles are ongoing legal disputes, tricky interaction with the local governments and the change of plans for some sports venues.
Rio recently announced the rugby venue won't be built where it was originally planned because a local partner failed to meet deadlines, and there is still uncertainty over the location of the field hockey arena. The land where the golf course will be constructed remains the source of a legal dispute.
Last week, the Rio committee announced leadership changes to "strengthen its organizational structure," with executive Sidney Levy taking over as new CEO beginning next year. Levy will replace Leonardo Gryner, who becomes the committee's chief operations officer.
The scandal over the illegally downloaded files prompted heavy criticism of Rio organizers in Brazil, but London officials say they have put the episode behind them.
The Rio committee said the employees acted alone. London officials said the documents likely would have been provided to the Rio team had they requested them through the proper channels.
London organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe will head the transfer of knowledge meetings which will take place at a hotel in Rio's Barra neighbourhood, where most Olympic venues will be located. IOC vice-president Nawal El Moutawakel, who heads the 2016 co-ordination commission, is also expected in the city for the debrief.
Among the venues to be visited are the Joao Havelange Stadium, which will host the track and field competition in 2016, and the Maracana Stadium, home to the opening and closing ceremonies. The tour will also include stops at the construction site of the Olympic Park and Olympic Village, as well as other infrastructure work across the city.
The IOC has increasingly pushed organizers to share their experiences with future hosts to promote a smooth transfer of knowledge.
"It's not about innovating just to innovate," said Gerry Pennell, the London organizing committee director of technology. "It's important to understand what the athletes will need, what the journalists will need and what the public will need. After having these answers, it becomes possible to know what's the right thing to do."