Afonso José Sena Cardoso was speaking to Newstalk Sport ahead of the Opening Ceremony
The Opening Ceremony of the 31st Summer Olympic Games takes place in the early hours of Saturday morning and Rio de Janeiro will open its doors to the World.
It is the first time the Olympic Games will be held in South America, and according to the Brazilian Ambassador to Ireland, Afonso José Sena Cardoso, the Olympics will be like “a dream for Brazilians”
“We are really looking at it with at it with a lot of enthusiasm. Not only the Cariocas [Rio de Janeiro natives], but Brazilians as a total”, Ambassador Cardoso told Newstalk Sport.
Brazil does not have the best of records in the Olympic Games. Since first competing in 1920, the country have won 108 medals, including 23 golds. In London, four years, ago, Brazil had their highest ever medal count winning 17 medals including three golds, to finish 22nd in the medal table.
Ambassador Cardoso was unwilling to commit to a number when asked about a potential medal tally, but he did admit Brazil will look at the Olympics at how it portrays the country to the outside world.
“For us, the most important thing is to have a successful Olympic Games, and successful for everyone. The beautiful thing is that everyone will be watching the Games all around the world. That’s where we will be measuring our success”.
As hosts, Brazil will have their largest ever team at an Olympic Games. The country are entitled to submit an entry in every event and Mr Cardoso hopes the team will be able to equal the feats of the team from four years ago. “We will be extremely glad if we can at least repeat what we had in London four years ago. It would be fantastic because we are competing against the best athletes in the World.”
Picture by: Felipe Dana / AP/Press Association Images
The buildup to the Olympic Games has been far from smooth for the country. Political and economic upheaval has seen President Dilma Rousseff an impeachment process as the country struggles with recession.
The Ambassador expects the Olympic and Paralympic Games will lessen the pressure on the political classes, only temporarily. “Sport is a positive to everyone. Don’t expect that the political problems will be sorted out through sport. They will not.”
In June, the state of Rio de Janeiro declared a ‘State of Calamity’, as they tried to get Federal funds to help maintain public services. Despite the worrying name, Mr. Cardoso claimed the city is now financially ready to welcome the World’s sporting elite.
“The state of Rio has relied in the last decade in royalties from oil. Whenever you explore oil at seas, the federation pays a royalty fee to the state. The oil numbers reduced which meant the royalties reduced. They had to have an arrangement authorised by the Senate. The Senate was kept busy by the impeachment process and many other things. The Rio Governor caught their attention and the Senate entered into an agreement to help the state.”
As with many cities around the world, Rio de Janeiro has numerous social issues, but Ambassador Cardoso feels the Games are a chance to leave a positive legacy on the city and its immediate surrounds.
“We have to face terrible challenges. Challenges that derive from deficits. Historical deficits. Deficits in infrastructure. Not only the physical infrastructure but the social too. That means opportunities that demand our attention. Opportunities for social development and the economy. If you face them and don’t try to avoid them some will turn into opportunities.”
Picture by: Mike Egerton / PA Wire/Press Association Images
The regeneration of the city was top of the agenda for Rio’s Olympic organisers. Once the city was confirmed as the Olympic hosts in 2009, the began to pick the brains of previous hosts and decided to try and base their plans of that from Barcelona in 1992. The Catalan city underwent a massive regeneration process before and after the Olympic Games.
“We sent a group of very high officers on a tour to visit every country that had already hosted a Summer or Winter Olympic Games. By coincidence that group was headed by the man who is now the Minister of Finance. We were told by all the cities what went wrong but could have been better.”
“Having heard and learned a lot from those people, we tried to base our on model on Barcelona’s in 1992. Our decision was to give our priority to what could be a concrete legacy in terms transportation and the gentrification of downtown. That was the model we proposed to keep to as close as possible.”
As was the case in London four years ago, Rio de Janeiro’s organisers have learned from the mistakes of Athens in 2004 and will see some of the stadia used, be turned into other projects around Brazil.
“Some of the stadia, were conceived as modular so they can be unassembled and moved around the country to be used as gymnasiums by public schools.”
Ambassador Cardoso will not be travelling to Brazil to see the Games, but he will be an attentive viewer from his Dublin home. When asked what Irish fans can expect, in travelling to Brazil, his answer was very clear.
“That’s something we have in common. Brazilian and Irish, we love to party.”
It’s almost time for Brazil, to show once more itself to the World.