Rio is ready

Published 5 August 2016 (AEDT)

Inside Olympic Park ©

RIO 2016: What a difference a week can make.

Just a few days ago, Olympic Park looked more like a construction zone than a world-class sporting precinct.

But now, as you enter the main area, it’s not the sound of drills you can hear - it is the buzz of energy.

Anticipation and excitement is alive in Barra.

Landscaped gardens including large trees and palms now line the park.

Rowing pictogram

With most temporary fencing gone, it feels like the impressive venues have been officially unveiled.

Only now can you appreciate the linear architecture – especially of the Rio Olympic Velodrome and neighbouring Carioca Arenas 1, 2 and 3.

Centre court of the Olympic Tennis Centre stands out at the start of the boulevard where thousands of spectators will enter the park each day. Decked out in red, orange and yellow with the national flags of each country suspended from the rafters, it’s hard to miss. Perhaps it’s reflective of what it’s going to be like during competition with spectators encouraged to bring their energy and support to make it an unforgettable party.

Rowing pictogram

Members of the Rio 2016 workforce pose for photos in front a 3D sculpture of the Games’ logo: a trio of people holding hands to form a circle which sits perched on a white pedestal. The green, yellow and blue logo has been inspired by the harmonious diversity and contagious energy of the Brazilian people. It has certainly brought Olympic Park to life.

There are two sets of Olympic rings which are already proving to be a popular place to capture the moment. And with the mountainous backdrop, what a moment to capture.

Rowing pictogram

Inside the venues, the cleaners dressed in florescent orange, are wiping down the chairs. They want their city to sparkle. The ‘look’ of the Games has been applied; sports equipment, timing and camera positions all tested.

The Rio Megastore is exactly that – mega. Posters are being hung on the windows ready for the first day of trading, on day one of competition, where fans will no doubt be keen to load up on souvenirs.

The brightly dressed hospitality workers are going through their inductions; ready to prepare and serve food at the various food outlets. There’s also a McDonald’s and a café in the main outdoor food court. A cascade of red Coca-Cola umbrellas shade the matching picnic tables and chairs from the warm sun. So much for winter!

And in true Brazilian style, yellow beer carts line the venues.

Olympic Park is home to basketball, judo, wrestling, taekwondo, diving, synchronised swimming, water polo, gymnastics, track cycling, swimming and tennis.

Competition begins in Olympic Park on Saturday August 6.

Today and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday) are public holidays here in the city of Rio de Janeiro. And with no school or work, the people of Rio are ready to show the world a good time.

The Olympic torch has hit the city passing through Olympic zones such as Barra da Tijuca, Recreio and Copacabana. On Friday the torch will make its way towards the world famous Maracana Stadium for a grand entrance during the Opening Ceremony (9am Saturday August 6 AEST) where the cauldron will be lit. Who will light it, remains one of the Games best kept secrets.

And it appears for the first time since the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, there will be two cauldrons.

The second cauldron will be in the city centre known colloquially as “The Marvellous Port”. It’s an old port facility that has recently been renovated. There is a newly constructed pathway along the seashore that stretches south.

Dubbed “Olympic Boulevard”, the area will be home to the biggest spectator hub outside of the Olympic precinct with a live site, entertainment and activities such as bungee jumping.

Soon after the cauldron is lit at Maracana, the Olympic flame will burn brightly next to an iconic Roman Catholic church called Candelaria. It’s not known who will light the cauldron here but was told it “may not be a person”. We’re tipping it’s the mascot Vinicius – the yellow cat-like creature who purports to be “a mixture of all the Brazilian animals”.

Despite the ongoing speculation, one thing is certain. Rio is ready to host a spectacular Games.

Sophie Onikul

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