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Brazil makes sports business progress as World Cup countdown begins

The Rio 2016 gift shop is already open, a sign that progress is achievable!
The Rio 2016 gift shop is already open, a sign that progress is achievable!
Photo by Max Donner at Rio 2016 headquarters

“Order and Progress” are so important to Brazil this motto embellishes the country’s flags. But that’s not a guarantee and protests, strikes, bad weather and traffic congestion are all posing challenges that international observers are watching as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup next month and the 2016 Olympics two years from now. Pessimists have taken note of the dire report made by International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates earlier this month that preparations are "the worst” he had experienced in his long association with the Games.

Optimists will note that Innsbruck, Austria was able to complete all the preparations necessary to host the 1976 Winter Olympics in less than three years after voters in Denver, the city originally selected to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, opposed the plan with a political initiative. A major obstacle to similar progress in Brazil has been the focus of community leaders and the hospitality industry on accommodating the FIFA World Cup this year. This has put pressure on the resources needed to accelerate construction of the new sports facilities that will augment those already in place from the 2007 PanAmerican Games. This is definitely a problem – construction has not begun at a key site chosen north of central Rio de Janeiro. The original plan slated this for the Olympic BMX Centre, the Olympic Whitewater Stadium, the Olympic Hockey Centre and Deodoro Arena, which will host the fencing part of modern pentathlon, some basketball matches and wheelchair fencing.

Existing facilities for BMX biking and whitewater kayaking in Iguazu Falls southwest of Rio de Janeiro and expansion of existing plans to host Olympic soccer events in Sao Paolo and Belo Horizonte may provide some room to maneuver. This year’s experience hosting the World Cup in multiple cities could make that approach a bit easier by building off the experience acquired co-ordinating sports events taking place in multiple cities.

According to a panel of experts at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports, the extra efforts needed for more order and progress will be well worthwhile. For several major sponsors of both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, such as Coca-Cola and Adidas, Brazil is the third or fourth largest consumer market in the world. The longer waiting times required for stadia that do not have the most advanced logistics and security screening technology also mean that sponsors get more hours of exposure for their banners and other brand advertising at these major sports events. Coca-Cola’s Emmanuuel Seuge explained how the company is already planning ahead with temporary staffing and training, building off its recent experience as the sponsor of the Olympic torch relay.

There is substantial upside on this road to sports business progress. Advance sales of broadcast advertising confirm expert forecasts that viewership for these marquis international sports contests will increase thirty percent over the previous four year cycles. In a world economy that is barely growing at all, that is the kind of progress sponsors like to see.