The run up to the Rio Olympics has been marred by concerns over Zika virus, a political meltdown, a massive doping crisis, crumbling infrastructure, and a bay filled with human shit. The list of problems is so long and populated with strange issues that it’s easy to overlook another, far more typical fuck up: the Rio Organizing Committee can’t get anything built on time.
In particular, they’re having a hard time getting the velodrome built in time to host track cycling events. Organizers had to cancel two indoor test events in the velodrome in March and April because, uh, there was no velodrome to hold them in. The first track cycling races to be held in the arena will be actual Olympic races, which is obviously a bad idea, and that’s assuming the thing even gets built.
Tecnosolo, the construction company in charge of the velodrome, declared bankruptcy on Monday, causing the city of Rio de Janeiro to cancel its contract and hand it over to a different construction firm. The city government has said that construction is 88 percent complete, which is probably an optimistic estimate, given the flood of bad press they’ve been under for the entirety of 2016.
This news comes only a week after UCI president Brian Cookson said that he was “very, very worried” about the track’s progress:
“I’m very unhappy about that,” Cookson said. “The progress still seems to be incredibly slow. We now believe we don’t have any time for any proper test events and that’s very, very worrying.
“I want to encourage our friends in Rio to live up to the commitment that they’ve made and have the venue finished and operational — fully — several weeks before the Games.”
If Cookson was already concerned that no test events could get done before the news of Tecnosolo’s bankruptcy broke, this is not a good sign for track events. The first races are scheduled to take place on August 11, and all the noise about how the building is near 90 percent complete seems more like obfuscation rather than an accurate estimate.
Best case scenario, they find the right Siberian lumber, the track actually gets built, works for the five total days of Olympic racing, and sparks a track cycling renaissance in South America, as organizers have waxed on about. But given all we know about the short lives and long deaths of expensive Olympic venues, this velodrome looks more like a $43 million (at least) white whale than anything else.
This is the great lie of the Olympics as civic regenerators laid bare: Rio de Janeiro doesn’t have the resources or organization to get a stadium ready for five days of relatively obscure bike racing, and even if they do get their shit together, they’ll still have paid $43 million for a freaking velodrome as the country slides into a depression.