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  • A Farewell Letter - The Brazil Blog


    (ATR) It comes the time to close down the Around the Rings Rio de Janeiro bureau.

    ATR reporter Aaron Bauer with the cauldron on the Olympic Boulevard (ATR)
    I came down to Rio to represent ATR just over 14 months ago. It was my first ever major assignment, let alone one in a foreign country where I did not speak the language. It was daunting.

    Over a year later, the whole experience still feels so surreal. Rio has changed tremendously since my arrival, and an Olympic Games have come and gone. I have changed as well, and even feel unafraid sometimes asking questions at press conferences in Portuguese!

    I even survived Zika.

    ATR has seen its coverage grow to new heights in the run up and through the Olympic Games. Our coverage was on the ground for almost every Olympic related event during the final year of preparations, even travelling with the Olympic flame from Switzerland to Brasilia.

    Covering these preparations, ATR found itself ahead on some stories and more importantly learning form the stories we missed or were behind on. The coverage was not perfect, and our missteps will help guide us to continue to strive to be better in the future.

    The ATR team in Rio for the Olympic and Paralympic Games was one of the largest in our history, and the work done here in the year before showed in our coverage. We were able to produce unique stories tailored to our readers, and I couldn’t be prouder of our work.

    Our mission in Brazil is not complete, as the story from Rio 2016 has not been fully written. There are still issues in the cidade maravilhosa worth reporting, and I will do my best to continue them from our offices in Atlanta.

    I learned a lot in the past 14 months as a journalist, and I want to thank everyone that I have met here in Rio for the immeasurable help you have given. The members of the domestic and foreign press corps here are some of the most amazing people on earth, and I am blessed to have them all as resources for life. I would not have been able to do my job without them, and I am eternally grateful.

    One of Rio's stunning views (Getty Images)
    Brazil is a challenging place to live. Brazilians will be the first to tell you that, albeit with a smile. Despite the challenges, Rio de Janeiro has lived up to its name as the marvelous city. With mountains, oceans, and rainforests all right next to each other, no city on earth has such a beautiful diversity. I could see how the IOC was easily charmed by hosting the world’s biggest spectacle in the world’s most beautiful place.

    They pulled it off, just barely.

    The biggest thing I’ve learned about reporting on the Olympics here in Brazil is they need wholesale reform. The popularity of the Olympics cannot and will not be denied but the IOC is wrong about one thing. Rio was not a “stress test,” for the health of the Olympics; it should be a wake up call.

    With limited oversight outside of the IOC, the organization is free to ask the world of the cities hosting the Games. While there have been a few cases of this fitting in at the right moment of a long term development plan of the city, it is not the norm. The Rio experience should show that the Olympics have grown too big and cities are asked to do too much for too little of a payoff.

    Independent advisers in Tokyo warn the cost of getting the city ready to host the Games could be $30 billion. An injection of that much capital into a city over a short period of time rarely yields productive results. Rio only injected a third of Tokyo’s upper projections and the signs of backsliding are already apparent.

    If the IOC is serious about reforms, it would continue to build on Olympic Agenda 2020 and add some regulatory oversight from the non-sporting side. It should also look into scaling back what cities need to provide to host a two month sporting event.

    Going to Rio should not be seen as a mistake, and maybe the IOC will learn from this Olympiad to better future ones.

    For now it is time to explore the Northern reaches of the country and then say, "tchau Brasil." Eu deixei meu coração aqui, e eu vou perder muito.

    Written by Aaron Bauer in Rio de Janeiro

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