Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Olympic scramble: Rio puts construction in the spotlight

The 2016 games are fast approaching, but will the venues be ready in time and what role has construction played in the problems?

With a fortnight to go until the opening ceremony in Rio, there are still serious question marks over whether the city will be ready in time.

With only one of the new buildings currently complete, the rest still looking like construction sites and a new subway link due to be completed four days before the opening ceremony, all those involved in the construction are under unimaginable pressure to deliver. Construction operatives are working around the clock outside the tennis arena, there are lines of workers wearing safety helmets on perimeter roads, and still other teams working in the main Olympic park.

Rio is clearly doing its best, but how could this last minute scramble be avoided?

Managing risk

Brazil has suffered no shortage of serious problems: the country is in recession; the Zika virus is causing birth defects; its president has recently been impeached; and there are high levels of serious crime and pollution in Rio itself.

However, it could be that the frantic rush to finish the works really boils down to the two main risks of any construction project: time and cost.

While ready in good time, London’s budget was revised upwards and was almost four times the estimated cost at the time of the original bid in 2005.

“Average cost overruns in the delivery of Olympic Games in the last 40 years has been more than 200 per cent”

With average cost overruns in the delivery of Olympic Games in the last 40 years being more than 200 per cent, nations bidding to win an Olympics make enormous promises with budgets calculated on over-optimistic financial models.

Rio promised to build 14 new venues from scratch as well as new road networks and transport links. In retrospect, these seem overambitious.

Out of cash

Tokyo, the hosts of the 2020 games, have decided that they cannot afford the centrepiece stadium now that the costs have been realised and perhaps Rio should have made a similar decision to scale back early on in the project.

Brazil quite simply ran out of money and there have been well-publicised attempts to cut back the original budget.

In terms of time, the Olympic committee has been concerned from early on about whether Brazil will deliver in time. Twelve months ago new venues were concrete shells. It costs money and requires extra skilled labour to accelerate a project falling behind.

With the budget cuts and question marks over whether Brazil has a sufficient number of skilled workers to undertake the works, it doesn’t seem as if the country has been able to catch up the lost time.

Time trial

Has the huge time pressure on those involved in the construction resulted in the quality being compromised in the rush?

There are reports of electrical cables hanging over cracked footpaths and a couple of months ago a new elevated bike path collapsed, killing two people, on the same day as the Olympic torch was lit in Greece.

You have to question whether there will be any health and safety issues with venues not properly snagged just to get them open.

Furthermore, with the new subway link set to open four days before the games, can it have been properly tested?

Let’s hope that Rio can prove the pessimists wrong and deliver a magnificent games and those involved in the construction can relax rather than ponder where it all went wrong.

Ben Kilshaw is a partner at Hamlins

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.