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Could Brazil lose the 2016 Olympics?

Much has been written recently about the woeful preparation for the 2016 Olympics around Brazil. One high ranking International Olympic Committee (IOC) official was quoted as saying, “The state of preparation for the Olympic Games in Brazil is the worst I have ever seen.” The quote is attributed to John Coates, Australian IOC member who has made multiple trips to Brazil and he continues to express his concern.

This comment was the result of onsite visits to Brazil by Coates and other IOC members as news reports continue to emanate from Brazil that there are major problems with preparation. Some reports indicate that the state of preparation is somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of completion with slightly more than two years to go before opening ceremonies.

The IOC has taken the unprecedented step of embedding their own personnel at the Organizing Committee in Rio de Janeiro. As costs continue to soar amidst allegations of corruption and construction delays the concerns that Rio will not be ready for the Games in slightly over two years are not unfounded.

Individual International Sports Federations have also sent their teams to Rio to work with the local organizing committee. This was done in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games and it seemed to work well in that venue. However, South America and Brazil in particular, are very different than Russia.

The IOC took a risk in awarding the 2016 Games to Brazil, the first South American country to ever host an Olympic Games. However, the problems in Brazil are exacerbated by the fact that in a few weeks the 2014 World Cup gets underway with the international sporting community coming to Brazil for the month long event. This too is unprecedented as the country hosts the two largest sporting events in the world within two years of each other

Rumors have also been circulating that the International Olympic Committee is considering moving the Games to another country. That would be an unprecedented move as well but the IOC can ill afford to have the biggest sporting event in the world portrayed as a disaster on international television. This is also a problem for NBC and major worldwide sponsors like The Coca-Cola Company and others who have invested millions of dollars in the Olympic Games and attendant promotions.

London, which hosted the Games very successfully in 2012, is the city which is most often mentioned as an alternate venue. Obviously the British Olympic Committee and the United Kingdom have the sporting venues and personnel with Olympic experience. However, moving the Games is also risky for the IOC. Brazil has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to building new venues and making infrastructure improvements.

What would happen to the venues in Brazil? Could London actually marshal the funding, the manpower and security necessary to successfully stage the Games? Would Brazil sue the IOC for moving the Games? What would sponsors do to promote their association with the Games in Europe instead of South America?

At this point many questions remain unanswered. However, if the IOC is to actually move the Games to another host country, the decision needs to be made this summer so that the alternate city could have at least two years to prepare.
The IOC will be watching closely when the World Cup opens in Brazil in June. If the organizers of the World Cup fail to provide a safe and efficient competition, watch for the IOC to make a very difficult decision. On the other hand, if Brazil produces and efficient and safe World Cup, look for the IOC to work closely with the International Sports Federations and the local organizers to insure that the decision to award the Games to South America.