Three years on, Rio 2016 venues keep the Olympic spirit alive

Three years ago, the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 mesmerised people around the world. Since then, despite the political, economic and social challenges affecting Brazil, the benefits created by the Games have kept the Olympic spirit alive. Today, many of the Olympic venues that witnessed unforgettable sporting performances in 2016 continue to be at the heart of local and international action.

The Barra Olympic Park was at the centre of the Olympic Games 2016 and has remained busy ever since. By June 2019, the venue had hosted more than 200 events, attracting some 800,000 spectators. Events hosted here include the Cirque du Soleil, Game XP and the 2017 Rock in Rio festival , which will return to the venue in September 2019. The Olympic Park is also regularly used by professional and amateur athletes. 

Within the Olympic Park, the Carioca Arena 1 – which hosted the Olympic basketball competitions – is the home venue of the Flamengo Basketball team, and has also been widely used since the end of the Games. Most recently, it has hosted events such as the Street Skateboarding World Championships in January 2019 , the FIBA Intercontinental Cup  and the Taekwondo Grand Slam in February 2019,  and the Open Brazil Jiu-Jitsu Championships in March 2019  .

The Carioca Arena 2 hosted judo, wrestling and boccia at the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2016. Today it is home to the Brazilian Wrestling Confederation and the Reação Institute – a non-governmental organisation created in 2003 by Olympic judo medallist Flávio Canto to promote human development and social inclusion through sport and education. Olympic judo champion Rafaela Silva, the first Brazilian to win a gold medal at the 2016 Games, trains here regularly .

Arena 2 is also home to the “Fight: The school of life” project, which offers boxing, jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts classes to schoolchildren. Its aim is to transform the lives of children and teenagers who live in underprivileged communities by encouraging them to practise sport and martial arts.

Carioca Arena 3 within the Olympic Park, which hosted taekwondo and fencing competitions during the Olympic Games, today is used by the Brazilian badminton, gymnastics, wrestling and boxing federations, as well as the Brazilian table tennis, judo and futsal confederations, to train professional and non-professional athletes.  In June 2019, it hosted the Brazilian Artistic Gymnastics Championships . 

Since August 2018, this venue has also offered free gymnastics, music and drama classes to up to 1,500 children and teenagers aged up to 14 . Arena 3 is also home to the Non-School Hours Programme, which focuses on supporting the development of youngsters aged between 7 and 17, with medical and dental care services. Another project taking place in the venue, “Work with the Seniors”, is aimed at 80 older people in the community, offering activities that stimulate individual development, self-esteem and coexistence in society.

The Olympic Velodrome, also part of the Olympic Park, reopened in May 2018, after two fires hit the venue in 2017. Today the venue is home to the Brazilian Confederation of Track Cycling, with the national team training here regularly .

The venue has also hosted local and international competitions, such as Brazilian Regional Judo Championship in April 2018 and  the Table Tennis State Championships in 2018 . In March 2018, for the first time in Brazil, the velodrome hosted the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championship. The event brought together 222 athletes from 30 countries, including 48 Paralympic medallists. 

The velodrome also hosts the “Sport and Citizenship for Everyone” project, which offers cycling, judo and jiu-jitsu classes to more than 450 children. Its aim is to extend local children’s access to sport and leisure. 

The 16 courts built within the Olympic Tennis Centre to host the Olympic tennis competition reopened in February 2017. That month, the centre hosted the “Giants of the Beach” competition,  where 2016 Olympic volleyball champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt competed against Beijing 2008 champion, American Phil Dalhausser, and his teammate Nick Lucena. The venue also hosted the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in May 2017 , and the 2017 South American Beach Soccer League competitions. 

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As part of the “Athlete Connected-Citizen Project”, local citizens are invited to use the Tennis Centre. The service is being extended to also include the possibility to practise other sports.

Other major events have taken place at 2016 Olympic venues. For example, the PGA Tour Latin America Qualifying Tournament took place at the Olympic Golf Course in January 2019; the CONMEBOL Copa America final took place at the Maracanã Stadium in June 2019; and a women’s volleyball friendly match between Brazil and the USA (August 2018) and Brazil’s national basketball league finals (May 2019) were hosted at the Maracanãzinho Arena.  The Rio Olympic Stadium also serves as the home ground for the Botafogo football club, attracting crowds at the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores run in 2017. By the end of 2018, the Deodoro complex had hosted 130 sport events.

While most Rio 2016 venues continue to be used regularly, other venues, such as the BMX Olympic Centre and the Field Hockey Centre in the Deodoro complex, have faced challenges. The use of the Deodoro Olympic Whitewater Stadium has been sporadic, although it has been used as a public pool and hosted the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in September 2018.    

The temporary Olympic swimming venue is still to be dismantled, but its pools have been relocated. Three of them are being used in Salvador (Bahia), Guaratinguetá (São Paulo) and Manaus (Amazonas).

The challenging economic and political situation in Brazil has admittedly delayed progress more than was hoped for in some areas of legacy, such as the Olympic Village. However, hosting the Olympic Games in Rio provided a number of bright spots of progress, such as improvements in infrastructure and the direct or indirect creation of thousands of jobs in an otherwise difficult situation.


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