Brazil goes for fast-tracking gold
After successfully staging the 2014 World Cup tournament, Brazil’s government is focused on another massive international sporting event: the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. As with the World Cup, Brazilian organizers have come under withering criticism for major project delays. Some observers have said the games cannot be staged as promised in Rio de Janeiro, the first South American city to host the Olympics.
Yet the World Cup offered some critical lessons learned, the biggest of which was: Reducing a megaproject’s scope can save it. Although 21 of 83 infrastructure projects supporting the tournament were postponed, most people still thought Brazil delivered a great competition because the most important deliverables—the 12 stadiums hosting matches—were ready in time. With less than two years left before the Olympics, that lesson could be relearned in Rio.
In April, International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president John Coates said preparations for the 2016 games were the worst he’d ever experienced. To troubleshoot planning, the IOC created a special task force that hired a project manager to oversee all construction.
IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli, sent to Rio to lead the task force, was heartened by the World Cup, however. Preparations remain “tense, very tense, but we should look with more optimism,” he told the Associated Press. Despite all the delays, Brazilian officials insist the city will be ready, as construction crews work around the clock to overcome schedule setbacks.
Preparations remain “tense, very tense, but we should look with more optimism.”
—Gilbert Felli, IOC executive director, to the Associated Press
Rio hosted just seven World Cup matches this year but will host an entire Olympic Games. The vast undertaking includes hundreds of projects that range from constructing sporting venues and housing for athletes to creating ticketing sites and event security. The total estimated budget from public and private funds, including subway, airport and road projects, is BRL37 billion. The budget has been revised upward multiple times, and many projects remain behind schedule.
One of the biggest concerns is the cleanup of Guanabara Bay, where all sailing and windsurfing events are slated to take place. Nearly 70 percent of the sewage in the metropolitan area flows untreated into the bay. While Brazil’s 2009 Olympic bid promised that the city’s waterways would set “a new standard of water quality preservation for the next generations,” officials have acknowledged that the best possible outcome by the games is a 50-percent reduction in pollution entering the bay.
Less visible are the nearly 400 IT projects underway to support the games. These projects comprise nearly 20 percent of the Rio organizing committee’s BRL7 billion budget. The games’ IT needs are staggering: The technology infrastructure includes hundreds of servers and thousands of computers to collect, process and provide information and real-time data to 21,500 members of the media, 45,000 volunteers and 10,500 athletes, as well as deliver competition results to viewers around the world.
The total estimated budget from public and private funds, including subway, airport and road projects, is BRL37 billion.
PHOTO BY ANDRE DURAO / SHUTTERSTOCK
Facilities are under construction for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the first South American city to host the games.
Drainage and sanitation projects are underway to support the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Construction projects are 10 to 15 percent behind schedule, organizers said in July. Thirty-eight percent of the competition venues were finished as of May, with the rest still under construction or in need of renovations.
Both new and renovated venues have faced a number of challenges. Most notably, Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, an existing stadium being expanded to fit 13,000 more seats, was closed in 2013 after the project team discovered the roof was prone to collapse and needed total reconstruction. Work on the Deodoro Olympic Park, the second-largest of the two parks planned for the games, didn’t begin until July, after nearly a year of approval delays from multiple government agencies. Rio’s city hall took over the project last November.
Bureaucratic infighting is a major reason for the delays, says Farhad Abdollahyan, PMI-RMP, PMP, a professor at FGV business school in São Paulo, Brazil. He argues that many of the problems Rio faces on these projects are due to lack of alignment among stakeholder groups. “There is a lot of conflict between the different spheres of government, which makes it hard to deliver these projects,” Mr. Abdollahyan says.
From choosing which part of the city gets a stadium to divvying up funds and human resources, constant back and forth has delayed decision-making for years and led to poor project choices. “No one is a sole owner, so there is constant negotiation,” Mr. Abdollahyan says. “The lack of stakeholder management and sponsorship makes it very hard to solve problems.”
Inattention to proper planning adds additional risks to projects as they begin, says José Roberto Bernasconi, president of Sinaenco, Brazil’s union of architecture and engineering firms, in São Paulo. “The inefficiency of public management creates a vicious cycle that begins with the lack of rigorous planning and delays in the hiring process, generating unsatisfactory projects, which leads to further delays and increased costs,” Mr. Bernasconi explains.
Although time investments up front pay off with faster project execution, “in Brazil this logic is reversed,” he says. Project sponsors “often dispense with extensive planning, negatively impacting work progress and degrading the quality of projects, especially in relation to price and time frame.”
Despite major delays and cost increases, however, Mr. Abdollahyan remains cautiously optimistic about the games, noting fast-track construction schedules helped make the World Cup successful in the end. “It’s not a crisis yet, but we are in the yellow zone.” —Sarah Fister Gale
“The inefficiency of public management creates a vicious cycle that begins with the lack of rigorous planning and delays in the hiring process, generating unsatisfactory projects, which leads to further delays and increased costs.”
—José Roberto Bernasconi, Sinaenco, São Paulo, Brazil
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OCTOBER 2014 PM NETWORK