Brazil is preparing for the Summer Olympics in the midst of a political crisis, economic meltdown and an epidemic of birth defects linked to Zika virus. In face of this gloomy scenario, we decided to check the spirits of BayBrazil members who are planning to travel to Rio de Janeiro. We spoke with Olympic Games enthusiast Chuck Jones about his plans, perspective on sponsors investments and star athletes expected at Rio Olympics.
BayBrazil: You’ve attended eight Summer games. Are you still planning to travel to Rio despite the Zika virus scare?
Chuck: My family and I are still planning on going to Rio for the Olympics. While it is a bit concerning I believe the Brazilian government and Olympic committee is very focused on working to mitigate its impact. Also with some personal preparation by bringing DEET repellant this will hopefully minimize the risk. Our two daughters will also be going but since neither is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant for at least a number of years this lessens the concern.
BayBrazil: Will concerns around the virus impact the Games?
Chuck: I suspect Zika will have a minimal impact on the Games. There will probably be some people that don’t want to take a risk and another group that is either pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant in the near future who I recommend to not attend. There may be a few athletes that don’t participate but I wouldn’t think there will be too many in this camp.
BayBrazil: What will make the Rio Olympics different from other Games you’ve attended?
Chuck: It’s in Rio! One of the benefits of attending the Olympics is that you get to visit a different country every time, meet the people, experience some of the culture and see sights that are unique to Rio.
BayBrazil: What are some of the tech innovations sports fans will have access to that they didn’t in the London Olympics?
Chuck: There hasn’t been a lot of technology for fans at the Games. For Rio there will be an app called Rio 2016 that will have information on tickets, sports and athletes. The two most important features would be real-time availability on tickets (at some London venues people who left a venue early could turn their tickets in to be resold for a nominal amount) and which teams will be playing. Early in the Games there are a lot of preliminary match-ups, such in Beach Volleyball, but there is limited information on which countries and teams will be playing. Having this on-line would be a huge benefit.
BayBrazil: For people around the world who want to attend the Games and haven’t purchased tickets yet what is the best way to get tickets?
Chuck: Each country has its own official ticket agency. In the US it is CoSport. CoSport has a few tickets currently available and adds some at random times. It also has trip packages that include tickets but they are short excursions and expensive. I have always found that tickets are available at the Games. There will be the typical scalpers but also people who are coming to the Games with extra tickets that they are usually looking to off load at face value. Standing outside a stadium with your hand in the air with the number of tickets you need can sometimes get you tickets.
BayBrazil: Some big brands are sponsoring the Games. Give us your perspective on dollar amounts invested.
Chuck: There are a dozen worldwide TOP Olympic sponsors listed on the Olympic Committee website: Coca-Cola, Atos, Dow, GE, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung and Visa who probably each pay $100 million or more and then pay more for commercials, group trips to the Games and tickets. The site also has Olympic Partners (around $30 million) and Sponsors ($15 million) that are specific to a particular Games. All of these gain enormous visibility in exchange for cash payments and supplying goods or services. Then each country’s Olympic Committee has sponsorships along with many of the individual sports within a country. While some sponsors are the same, in the US McDonalds, P&G and Visa are sponsors, along with Anheuser-Busch, Nike and United Airlines. An example of a sports sponsor would be Kellogg’s for the US Gymnastics team.
BayBrazil: The estimated cost for the games is close to $10 billion dollars spent on infrastructure projects. Some Brazilians have criticized the spending especially due to Brazil’s deep recession. Are Olympic Games a good deal for hosting cities?
Chuck: The Olympics is a very expensive endeavor. If the money goes to infrastructure transportation and housing that can be used after the Games then it is well spent. The big downside are the stadiums that get little use afterwards. It is disheartening when you see sports structures fall apart and have vegetation grow over them.
BayBrazil: Who will be the star athletes in Rio Olympics?
Chuck: Usain Bolt will be the poster child for the Track and Field events since he is going for his 5th and 6th Gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter sprints. While swimmers such as Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky from the US will get a lot of attention is it people such as Matheus Santana from Brazil that could spring up out of obscurity to gain recognition. Beach Volleyball will get a lot of visibility starting with its location at Copacabana Beach. Kerry Walsh Jennings from the US will be one to watch going for her fourth gold medal but the Brazilians are usually strong and will have huge support from the home crowd. There will be a lot of focus on the Brazilian football team since the Olympics is the only major tournament that it has not won.
BayBrazil: What are some of your favorite events to watch?
Chuck: It is always fun to see some of the marquee Swimming and Track & Field races as tens of thousands of fans roar. However I very much enjoy seeing some of the lesser known events, especially Handball. Handball is similar to Water Polo but played on a basketball sized court with all the shots being taken from the 3 point line. It is high scoring with a bit it tackling thrown in but the competitors help each other up and seem to have a great comradely.
BayBrazil: What do you like to do besides see sports events?
Chuck: Trading pins is a fun “sport” at the Games. I have collected over 5,000 pins from the Olympics I have attended and it is a fun way to meet people and create memories of the Games.