Leaving the Aquece Rio Olympic Test Event last August I had plenty of concerns (such as: “Is this taxi driver going to mug me on the way to the airport?”) but whether or not the equestrian venue would be complete in a year’s time wasn’t at the top of my list.
There was still plenty to do at the site in Deodoro and of course there’s a big difference between a modestly attended 18-horse CIC2* and an international championship with tens of thousands of spectators, but things seemed to be well on track.
From the stabling to the arenas to the cross-country course, there was a positive buzz about the place from the athletes and national federation delegates in attendance. (I rounded up impressions from various course designers, chef d’equipes, team managers and riders here.)
So it came as a surprise to read news reports this week that, just six months before the opening ceremonies, Rio’s mayor has annulled contracts with the companies building both the equestrian and tennis facilities.
A statement released yesterday by Rio City Hall indicated that slow construction was to blame: “The rescinding of the (equestrian center) contract is due to non-compliance or incomplete compliance with contractual clauses and deadlines.”
Additionally the mayor’s office is imposing 10.16 million real ($2.4 million) fine on equestrian venue constructor Ibeg.
Ibeg responded that the slow pace of work on the equestrian venue was due to late payments made by the mayor’s office.
“Ibeg repudiates the decision to cancel the contract and will seek compensation through the courts for financial losses caused as well as the damage to our public image,” Ibeg said in a statement.
New contractors will be hired to complete the projects, and a spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic organizing committee said they were “confident the venues will be finished and delivered as planned.”
Did Ibeg take its foot off the gas after the Test Event? Or is this just the latest example of shady Rio politics?
There’s no way to know for certain. But it is a good reminder that transparency may be a rare luxury in coming months as we begin our countdown to the 2016 Olympic Games.
Olympic Equestrian Venue Photo Gallery
Click here for more images plus coverage and commentary from the Aquece Rio Olympic Test Event.
As for the Olympics themselves, Eventing Nation is over-the-moon to announce that we have been accredited to cover the Olympic Games live from Rio! EN’s fearless leader Jenni Autry will be bringing us all the action as it goes down Aug. 5-9. And, of course, there will be plenty of exciting developments to report on between now and then, so keep it posted here!