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  • Op Ed: One Week in Rio de Janeiro


    (ATR) With the last seven days just ahead, the 2007 Pan American Games are on track to be declared the best-ever. That's the verdict so far from any number of officials and athlete, some veterans of several Pan Ams.

    It’s also a huge help for the games to be held in one of the most beautiful cities in world, easily the most dramatic in the 15th incarnation of the Pan Ams. More often the games land in less glamorous locales such as Winnipeg, Indianapolis and in 2011, Guadalajara.

    There’s not a delegation leader or federation official (with a couple of exceptions) who has failed to heap some praise on Rio 2007.

    There have been issues they say, but no major problems. Meetings of the chefs de mission, one barometer of operational snafus, may not be needed on a daily basis as the games wind down.

    The Pan American Village is a treat for the athletes, the apartments the largest ever for the Games in a well-landscaped and compact layout. Many venues are just minutes away by bus. Complaints have been made about the food being served in the giant dining room, but the serving lines were full during an ATR visit last week.

    Technical problems led to last-minute-itis at a number of venues. Field of play issues with outdoor pitches such as baseball, field hockey and football show some sloppy work.

    At the same time, the Maria Lenk National Aquatics Center and the Arena Multiuso, have impressed with Olympic-worthy conditions. The rowing and canoe venue at a lagoon near the center of Rio de Janeiro may be the most stunning backdrop ever for the sport.

    The next big test comes Monday when the new Joao Havelange stadium is put through the paces with athletics. Like staging a five-ring circus, athletics has often been a tough one to get right at past Pan Ams.

    Transportation has not been an issue, despite the distances to some venues. No competitors have missed an event because of transport failures so far. And the crowd from PASO, NOC leaders and sports officials who need cars from their hotel to venues and the village, there seems to be an ample supply of compact white Volkswagens at the ready.

    Crowds have ranged from sparse to packed, with the turnout better than most Pan American Games; a games record 800,000 tickets have been sold.

    Brazilians, who have bought most of those tickets, are getting mixed reviews for the sportsmanship of their cheers. Seemingly anti-American at first, crowds are more simply against anybody competing against Brazil, some athletes say.

    And while spirits may run high at the venues, the way the sites are disbursed about the city makes it hard to have a “party central” location. Copacabana is a natural gathering place, but the beach can take as long as 45 minutes to reach from western Rio, where the Pan Village and hotels for media and officials are located.

    For Brazilians not able to get to the Rio venues, Globo and its sports channels have beamed hundreds of hours of coverage across the country in a manner resembling Olympic coverage.

    But is Rio de Janeiro ready for Prime Time, real Olympic coverage? Tune in to next week’s Op Ed.

    Op Ed is a weekly column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings founder and editor-in-chief Ed Hula. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: