LOS ANGELES — Patiently, methodically and sometimes repeatedly, the spokesman for Rio's 2016 Olympics Mario Andrada sat in the middle of a hoard of journalists Wednesday afternoon answering questions ranging from fears about Zika virus to the slow ticket sales.
He said if Brazilian officials have learned anything from hosting both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s that they need to “be as transparent as possible.”
“We have to have an open dialogue with the society, no glossing,” he said. “At the beginning of the World Cup there was a series of manifestations, and from that moment on, we took the decision to be transparent.”
He began with questions about the water quality in Guanabara Bay, where many of the sailing and rowing events will take place.
“We already had two test events, and also we have 38 years of data on pollution in the bay,” he said. “So we know how the pollution moves; we know how the floating garbage moves. We placed the competition areas on the outside of the bay where there is a strong current, which helps clean the water, and we’re going to fence the ugly part of the bay so floating garbage cannot come into the competition areas. We know how to deal with it.”
A more complicated question is how to alleviate fears from athletes, volunteers and spectators regarding Zika virus, a mosquito-born illness sweeping through Central and South America that was declared a health crisis by the World Health Organizations.
“Zika is a global problem,” Andrada said. “So we follow instructions from the World Health Organization and from local authorities on what we need to do in the case of Zika. We need to make sure all the venues are inspected and cleaned every, single day, and also to give the athletes and tourists the proper information so they can protect themselves.”
He said the Games, which begin Aug. 5, will take place during Brazil’s winter season, which is dry and not as hospitable to mosquitos.
“We are sure that we’re in good shape for both no risk to athletes and in making sure Zika will not be a factor.”
He said conversations on both subjects have only ensured safer and more successful planning.
Brazil is not immune to the global economic issues that have been difficult for all governments to navigate. But he said the fact that Brazil is only using public money to fund permanent structures like roads or legacy facilities, while the bulk of the cost of the Games is being funded by private entities, has given them a layer of insulation in uncertain economic times. “We did have to cut back in several areas, but you will not see the impact at the games,” he said. “The athletes field of play and fans, have not been sacrificed. If you have a limited budget (private funds), then you have to keep a balanced budget. If anything goes over, then it needs to be cut. I am 120 percent sure that nothing essential has been cut.”
One cut, he said, was to the number of volunteers. The organizing committee decided to host the games with 50,000 volunteers instead of 75,000, which saves them housing, food and clothing costs.
There have also been questions about the slow pace of ticket sales. He said that can be attributed to Brazilian culture, which is more laid back than some would like.
“I think you can see this in the ticketing front,” Andrada said of cultural impacts. “Brazilians are late buyers. They will take a while to start buying. Some people get nervous but there is no problem. We’re going to sell all the tickets.”