Rio de Janeiro’s Sambodromo, which hosts the city’s annual Carnival celebrations, has become the first Rio 2016 sports venue to open to the public following the completion of extensive renovation work.
To celebrate the reopening of the Sambodromo, which will play host to the archery events and the start and finish of the marathon during the 2016 Olympic Games, approximately 1,000 athletes and Carnival revellers took part in a 5.5km race at the venue on 12 February.
The renovation work has been completed in time for the 2012 Rio Carnival and four years ahead of the Games. Four new grandstands have been built on one side of the Sambodromo, increasing the venue’s capacity from 60,000 to 72,500 people and finally completing the original designs created by architect Oscar Niemeyer.
“The opening of the Sambodromo is a testament to how the Games are integrated with the city,” said Carlos Arthur Nuzman, President of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee. “The choice of this venue for the archery and the marathon events not only gives us the opportunity to stage sports competitions against a worldwide known setting, but also offers Rio de Janeiro a renovated, enlarged stage for one of the city’s largest popular celebrations. For the Rio 2016 Games, it also means completing a sports venue over four years in advance.”
Renovations began following the conclusion of the 2011 Carnival, with a 600-strong workforce ensuring that construction was completed on time. In addition to the new grandstands, the venue has been adapted to offer better access to people with disabilities, while new hospitality boxes have also been added. New sound systems have also been installed on both sides of the central road, while exiting structures have also been repainted.
“With over four years to go to the Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro has already completed two construction works: first, the Athletes’ Park, and now, the Sambodromo,” said Rio de Janeiro mayor, Eduardo Paes. “I must say the idea of completing Niemeyer’s project has resulted from the Brazilian Olympic dream. The great moment Rio will experience in 2016 will acclaim this place, which is Rio de Janeiro’s landmark.”
Participants in the race that marked the venue’s reopening were invited to run wearing Carnival costumes to the sound of past and current samba school songs.
Former-marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, bronze medallist at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and winner of the International Olympic Committee’s Pierre de Coubertin medal, was one of the participants in the race and approved the new Sambodromo venue.
“These grandstands will certainly be filled for the Rio Olympic Games marathon finish, which will further motivate and encourage the athletes, making this moment even more special,” he said. “I will not be competing in 2016, but today I’ve had an idea of what the event will be like, and I will certainly watch it.”