The Matt Slater Column: A look back at Rio 2016

With Rio 2016 over, Press Association's chief sport reporter takes a look at what will be left behind.

The Matt Slater Column: A look back at Rio 2016

Rio 2016’s organisers promised the world a party and, despite several wobbles, they just about pulled it off. But like many parties, there did not seem to have been much thought about tomorrow – almost literally in the case of the Paralympics.

At times, the Games felt like a pyramid scheme of good times and the secret to enjoying it was to know when to get out – not an option for the vast majority of Rio’s population. This is their Olympic legacy and they have to make it work.

The issue of what happens to the hosts when the guests go home is currently being discussed very loudly by the Summer Olympics’ next venue, the much richer country of Japan. And it is terrified.

Tokyo’s new governor Yuriko Koike has respected nobody’s sore head at International Olympic Committee (IOC) HQ by asking them some sobering questions about all these new buildings – canoeing centres, volleyball arenas and so on – her citizens are on the hook for.

Koike seems determined to turn the promised ‘compact’ Tokyo 2020 into a discount Tokyo-ish 2020, which is fair enough when a panel of experts have just told her the bill for this jamboree is now four times the original estimate.

Elected a few days before the Rio Olympics started, Koike has spelled it out: she does not want to “impose a negative legacy” on Tokyo.

But that is something every Olympic host has tried to avoid since Montreal’s 40-year hangover from the 1976 bash that nearly broke the city.

Some have fared better than others on that front – ahem, Athens – and it is too early to fairly assess Rio’s return. But Tokyo’s tension got me thinking about two very different examples of bricks-and-mortar legacy that I visited in Rio.

The first was at the end of the brand new highway from middle-class Barra – think Croydon with a beach – to the army base in dusty Deodoro. It was a private road for those with the right accreditation during the Games and the only way to get the Olympic Whitewater Stadium and back inside a day.

I was shown around by Rio 2016’s executive director of sport Agberto Guimaraes, a bundle of enthusiasm who just missed out on a medal when Steve Ovett beat Seb Coe in the 800m at the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

It was not his job to worry about what happened to the Olympic Whitewater Stadium once the Games were over but, as a man who had either competed for Brazil or worked in Brazilian sport all his adult life, he cared more than most.

So Agberto, I asked, Brazil does not appear to have a particularly strong pedigree in canoe slalom or much interest in it. If I were to come back in a few years’ time, would these American-engineered, ‘pump-powered’ rapids still be flowing, or would they be choked by rubbish from the same nearby favela that has been firing bullets into the neighbouring equestrian venue?

His answer was refreshing, in more than one sense.

Guimaraes explained this was the first of Rio 2016’s new venues to open... as a giant, outdoor swimming pool for the beach-deprived locals, complete with deckchairs, music and umbrellas.

“If we are ever going to have a challenge using a venue, it won’t be here,” he told me, and he meant it.

He was a little less convincing on how the velodrome would be transformed into a viable indoor training centre for long jumpers and pole vaulters, or what will happen to the three Arenas Cariocas, designed by fancy London architects, or who will be queuing up to play at Barra’s new golf course.

Perhaps it is time for the IOC to think about how it can be an easier guest by not making quite so many demands, bringing more to the party and even hanging around to clean up a bit.

But I did visit another Rio venue, in this case a renovated one, that looked certain to be a legacy hit: the Costa Brava Clube.

What’s that? You do not recall the world class sport that took place at the Costa Brava Clube?

Well, that is because it was a venue for world class schmoozing and was better known, for a month anyway, as Casa Italia, the home from home for the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

The easiest way to describe the place is ‘Bond lair’. Perched on a rocky promontory above the ocean, the dilapidated club was refurbished by the Italians and filled with beautiful furniture.

That all went back in crates to Italy but the done-up club, accessed by a bridge high above a hidden beach and sports facilities, was returned to its grateful owners and the residents of Rio’s poshest gated community, Joatinga.

It is ironic that the Italians only went for something this extravagant because Rome was making a bid for an Olympics that its new mayor has now decided is not worth the cost or trouble.

I sincerely hope there are other bits of the Rio party plan that can avoid white-elephant status – the new bus system has game-changing potential for the city’s poor – because a state of the art canoeing venue destined to become a watering hole and a country club on the rocks do not represent the greatest return on Brazil’s investment.

Perhaps it is time for the IOC to think about how it can be an easier guest by not making quite so many demands, bringing more to the party and even hanging around to clean up a bit.