Athletes are the real VIPs at Rio 2016

For the rest of the world, the Olympics Games are a breath-taking extravaganza of sporting excellence and cultural celebration that will inspire the next generation. But for the athletes involved, only one thing matters: their performance.

Picture by 2016 Getty Images

From having the best places to train and relax to getting to the venues on time, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee has made sure everything else is taken care of so competitors can focus on being their best when the Games begin.

“Our focus is to ensure the athletes come here and only have one concern, which is to train and compete,” says Agberto Guimarães, director of sports at Rio 2016. “We have to take care of the rest so we don’t create any stressful situation for any of the athletes in the period that they’re with us.”

Guimarães, a former middle distance runner who competed at three Olympics, is well placed to know what athletes need to make their Games run smoothly. He said the first three fundamental elements were accommodation, meals and transport.


“I think of an athlete as if I was thinking about myself. Things that are fundamental to prepare an athlete, things that - if they’re not done well - could stop the athlete from concentrating,” he explains. “It’s fundamental that the athletes are well transported, that they’re not delayed, that it’s comfortable, that it has sufficient quantity.”

To this end, the Olympic Village is close to many training and Games venues, and will have dedicated lanes for accredited vehicles taking athletes to other event zones.


Meanwhile, the Village has been designed with comfort, privacy and entertainment in mind. It’s important to have a leisure area inside the Village but athletes who come for the Games normally don’t go to these areas often because they cause a level of distraction,” Guimarães adds. “Today, with the advent of social media, the athletes hardly leave their rooms. They train, they go eat, and then they go back to the rooms. Athletes have much more privacy.”

The training centres at the athletes’ park, where there are facilities for nine disciplines, have been designed to avoid overcrowding and to ensure they are conveniently close to the village. And the equipment has been selected based on recommendations by each sports federation so that athletes have continuity in their training and feel at home.


Meanwhile, at the Village, there will be a polyclinic where athletes can undergo any examinations or physiotherapy for their recuperation.

“When I arrived at the village, the focus of attention was exactly this: the training sites, a room to relax, food and privacy,” Guimarães recalls. “All this should have our same attention. There can’t be anything that distracts them during the period in which they have to concentrate to train. These are the things we look for. The last point is the competition venues being at the level that Olympic athletes deserve to have, the best quality possible that we can offer so that they can have only one concern, which is to execute the performance for which they have been training for the past years.”