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Think about Olympic legacy and the continued use and maintenance of venues will spring to mind, along with initiatives designed to build on the inspirational nature of the Games by encouraging people of all ages to take up sport. One of the more unusual facets of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 legacy, however, was an initiative to promote animal welfare.
Designed and implemented in partnership with the international NGO World Animal Protection, the Rio 2016 Animal Management Service ran throughout the course of 2016 and formed an important part of the Games’ sustainability drive. A pioneering initiative, it sought to take care of the animals that found their way into the city’s Olympic facilities, ensuring that they were protected or rehoused in the most suitable way.
“We monitored the strays and feral animals found in the vicinity of the venues, and when we came across them we treated them, took care of them and nursed them back to health if necessary,” explains the project’s manager, Guilherme Andreoli.
As part of an integrated welfare programme, the service forged partnerships with the city’s veterinary clinics. It also held adoption fairs at shopping centres and organised public awareness campaigns. Local communities were invited to take part in awareness and training sessions organised by World Animal Protection, who provided advice on responsible pet ownership. In addition, a campaign designed to prevent animals from being abandoned and abused was launched prior to the Games.
In total, the service rescued 93 domesticated animals, with 89 of them going on to be adopted. It also provided medical care for non-domesticated animals found living in the vicinity of the Olympic venues.
"We did a lot of work in the Maracanã area, which has always had a very large cat population, with more than 100 cats usually found in the vicinity of the stadium,” explains Andreoli. “We vaccinated and treated them but we couldn’t offer them up for adoption as they were feral.”
The service also came into contact with more exotic creatures, as its manager explained: “The Olympic bay area is home to alligators, capybaras, opossums and other wild animals. We kept an eye on them to prevent them from getting into competition areas. We rescued 63 wild animals in all, almost all of them in good condition, and they were returned immediately to habitats close to where we found them.”
Delighted to be part of the first Olympic initiative of its kind, Andreoli hopes the project will have a lasting impact, both in Rio and further afield: “It was hard work but we got good results. That said, we need to keep on educating people to ensure they take care of animals and look after them. I hope the work we’ve done here will inspire future cities to do the same when they host the Games, as well as the host cities of other major events such as the Pan American Games, the World Cup and the South American Games. If it does, then that will truly be our legacy.”