From Rio, with love.

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Rio has been the focus of our attention for the past two weeks having played host to the 2016 summer Olympics.Kenyans may not be the best in football (sorry, Harambee Stars) but our prowess in the running field is legendary.The games have been described as a ‘Kenya versus former Kenya’ affair with US, Israel, Bosnia and Bahrain getting to claim a slice of the glory thanks to Kenya’s talent glut.

Brazil, at face value seems to be eating life with a big spoon.In an ambitious undertaking, they have managed to capture the World’s attention, not once but twice.It is no doubt that there are only two major international sporting events that attract wide audiences in many countries; the Olympics (summer and winter) and the World Cup of soccer.

Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup and now Rio De Janiero is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics. Like Kenya, Brazil’s economy is driven by agriculture but tourism is also becoming a major industry with Rio De Janiero and São Paulo being the two of the most visited destinations in the country.The country stands to gain big with the exposure it received on the global platform extended by the Olympics.

An aerial view of the legendary Maracanã Stadium in Brazil that staged both the opening and closing ceremonies of Rio 2016 Olympics.

Picture getting the opportunity to watch the games, as my mother would say, with your own two eyes. I am not talking about watching live from a television screen but being in the stadium where the games are being held, breathing the same air as the competing athletes. Think of the adrenaline rushing to your veins and the pride that swells in your heart as you experience that moment when our Kenyan athletes bag the gold, silver and bronze medals as they race on Kenyan soil.

Imagine having the Kenyan National Anthem repeated so many times that the foreigners find themselves humming along to it. Think of the morale boost that home ground advantage will extend to #TeamKenya and the opportunity to showcase our Kenyan Culture to the entire world as the spotlight shines on us for TWO weeks. It is possible, it is achievable.I can see all you doubting Thomases and before you dismiss me I shall explain how.

So, what does a city got to do to earn the right to host the Olympics? Well, first you will need money, lots and lots of money……Am talking about 150,000 Us Dollars just for the bidding process.Bear in mind that you may have to bid more than once. Then consider setting aside other billions for the operation costs largely classified as cost of security, venue construction or renovation costs and infrastructure costs.

Extended infrastructure will be in the form of new stadia, sports arenas and venues, hotels and transport. An Olympic village and Paralympic village will be built within the host city to house all participating athletes as well as officials and athletic trainers.

After the Olympics, these accommodation centers are sold off to become residential housing while the stadia and arena for sporting events will serve a useful purpose in future years for the city’s population.

View of Olympic village in Rio Brazil.

With the Olympics comes a huge number of tourists, athletes, journalists and politicians. The city must be big enough to handle this large crowd. High security and a reliable mass transit system will be required to transport everyone from one place to the next.

Rio, and Brazil as a whole for example experienced a massive overhaul of the national transportation infrastructure by building new roads, creating a rapid-transit train between São Paulo and Rio, new subway lines in São Paulo and new ports plus building new Hydroelectric power plants and transmission lines to power them them all. As a result, athletes did not take any longer than 50 minutes to get to competition and training areas.

The Mega event has far reaching economic consequences. The accelerated construction schedules and poor oversight as well as the cost overruns associated with the Olympics have led many economists to label the games as a money loser for cities particularly in developing nations.

Losses are made when costs exceed expectations while revenue falls below what had been expected.At the moment, the cost for Rio is estimated at around 4.6 billion dollars having incurred a 51 percent cost overrun.

Avenues for revenue generation include sale of TV broadcasting rights mainly via sales to the US networks as well as millions pumped into the economy by expenditure on meals, entertainment and accommodations by thousands of tourists.

Only time will tell whether Brazilians will get value for their money but from where we are standing, a few red flags have already been raised key of which being that the entire transportation investment of the (Rio) games have been captured by the event agenda without a firm master plan.What this means is that the transport serves the upper and middle class instead of the masses who really need them.

There is need for proper planning and exact execution to aid not only in the overall success of the mega event but to also lead to future lasting benefits for the community.

It is possible to use the Olympics as a catalyst to spur Mega economic projects. For example, Barcelona, Spain which played host in 1992 had already built or was in the process of building 32 of 37 Olympic venues before the IOC even selected it.The mega event was then used as a means to spur the construction of its already planned roads, circular highways that keep traffic out of downtown.The games are often credited with transforming Barcelona into a tourist hub.

This then makes up for the costs once the physical legacy from the games sports venue and infrastructure are turned around to produce future streams of benefits.

San-shan Bridge designed for the 2022 winter Olympics to be held in Beijing China.

Back home, the jubilee government came into power with a promise of building five new stadia in five different counties nationwide.So far, it is only the feasibility studies for the proposed sites that have been conducted.

Meanwhile Kenya is also expected to host the 2018 Africa Nation Championship but at the beginning of this year’s championship that happened in Rwanda, it was noted by the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) that Kenya’s preparation for the same was unsatisfactory and the body was also concerned about the state of Kenya’s stadiums.

Ethiopia has since been asked to standby to take up hosting rights should Kenya fail the test. Putting all this into perspective, together with the stories circulating around the media regarding the crisis that befell our athletes and their coaches thanks to guys at good old NOCK, one can only judge for themselves just how many years it would take before one of Kenya’s cities or read counties would be ready to host the Olympics.

I hold a Bachelors Degree in Construction Management from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and have overseen various construction projects since 2014. Based on my first hand experience in the built environment and through my writing, i hope to offer valid criticism to the way things are, and give valuable insights on how things should be. I am passionate about sustainable development and will always advocate for the interests of the general public. Contact me on: sylvie@buildingcode.co.ke

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