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Former director says IOC problem in Rio is 'facing worst crisis in 30 years'

By : Por Paulo 
Published : May 09, 2014 
Original article : Folha De Sao Paulo website (Portuguese) | PDF (Portuguese) 

The former director of the IOC , Michael Payne (second from left to right) during the Winter Games in Sochi -2014
(Credit : Reproduction/Twitter/MichaelRPayne1)

The British citizen, Michael Payne, was one of the major leading personalities on the Olympic world for over two decades.

Michael was the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) Director of Marketing and TV Broadcast Rights between 1983 and 2004 and he is well-known as the person responsible for the resurrection of the Entity.

After Michael joined the IOC, the Committee has started a new era of financial results. The IOC has moved from a nearly bankrupted organization into one of the most successful entities in the world. Payne designed and launched a successful partnership program for attracting sponsors which has become a benchmark in quality sponsorship standards.

After leaving the IOC, Payne worked for many years as an executive of Formula 1 and currently runs his own marketing consulting agency.

He is still acting very closely to the Olympic world. Michael has played a key role for the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee acting as a special consultant to the candidacy of Rio campaign.

His relationship with the Rio 2016 does not prevent him from making criticisms and point out the reasons that made the IOC, after successive problems, interfere within the preparation of the Games.

Payne believes that if the Rio 2016 organizers give an answer now for the IOC, the success of the Games will be granted. "But they need to stop talking that they will do something and really start doing something". Check out the interview given by phone.


What valuation do you make of the Rio 2016 organization?

I believe that the leadership of the IOC still think that Rio is able to accomplish great Olympics. The scenery, the history of Rio and Brazil, everything that has led to the choice of the city for the Games in 2016 is still a great story. But it is unquestionably, and by far, the latest organization of all [Olympics]. The IOC is currently facing its worst operational crisis in over 30 years. This is not an opinion, it is something talked about and shared by many people within the IOC itself.


What did you think about the intervention of the IOC?

People make many comparisons to what happened in Athens in 2004. But in Greece the IOC took four years before an emergency attitude. Now there are only two years for the Games in Rio and the situation became very serious.


An organization failure of the Olympics could only damage the image of Brazil, or do you think that he image of the IOC will also be in danger?

The Summer Olympics occur only once every four years. The IOC’s mission is to ensure the event is as successful as possible. It is not like a Formula 1 season. If a F1 GP does not work properly, then there will be another race in a month and all is forgotten. Now imagine a failure Olympics. There are four years ahead to regret the errors.


The reactions of the IOC go in this direction?

A closer relationship with Rio is Atlanta 1996, when there were fundamental problems of organization. Those defects have global reach and had a negative impact on the Olympics. At that time, two other directors and I have received express orders from none other than [former IOC president Juan Antonio] Samaranch to ensure that never again such disaster like Atlanta happened. The IOC is the franchise owner of the Olympics and has to protect it. In Rio, with so many delays, the IOC will take measures to protect it.


Do you think the IOC regrets the choice of Rio?

I was very involved with the candidacy of Rio. Until today, I believe that the decision to award the Games to Rio was correct. The Rio proposal was by far the best story. But it is also necessary that its authorities have a sense of urgency. You can have great stories to be told in beautiful places, and Rio has in many beautiful locations. However, if there are no facilities to compete, the beautiful landscape loses its context.


Do you think Rio will meet the deliverable deadlines?

The problem is not only build the stadiums. It is critical to have all ready for the realization of 28 World Championship at the same time. The reason why the Atlanta Games failed on the operational area is that its organizers were still planning details after the opening ceremony. In the second week, everything was already committed. So that is why the IOC is so rigid about the test events and the determination that everything should be ready three months before the opening ceremony. It takes time to make cabling, lighting, power, etc. All this passes off and nobody sees it. But it is essential for the success of the Games.


At what point do you think the situation has unraveled?

In the candidacy, one of the things that the IOC was positively surprised was to know how strong the bond between the Olympic community headed by [Carlos Arthur] Nuzman , the government and the city of Rio and the federal government . It looked like a tightly-knit team, at a level that the IOC rarely saw. But that image of unity given to the IOC lost is link. After winning the rights to host the Olympics, it is natural that organizers think "ok, we have seven years left". But you could not miss a single minute in the division of tasks.


Nuzman chairs the Brazilian Olympic Committee and Rio 2016. This buildup is harmful?

The chair of the organizing committee of the Olympics is one of the most complex positions that exist. No president of the Olympic organizing committee, at least in my memory, has been also president of the National Olympic Committee of the host country.


Do you think it is a bad practice?

It is not for me to judge. But ask yourself why this has never been done before.


The IOC is a reserved institution, but how do you imagine they are taking the Rio issue behind the scenes?

The IOC has no alternative but to make something happen in Rio. The IOC has never embarrassed sponsors and partners in public, whatever is the problem. Regardless, it would be almost unimaginable that the association of international federations manifested itself as it did in relation to Rio. If the IOC did not intercede now, as it did, it would be considered irresponsible by the rest of the Olympic Movement.


You said that the IOC "still" hopes that Rio can organize great Games. Is there any risk of it not happen?

Now the Olympics has to happen. In 2016, Rio will host 204 countries , more than ten thousand athletes. I can not imagine that with the discussions in relation to the World Cup and presidential elections, the leaders are as irresponsible as not to engage with all the organization of the Olympics. If delays continue, there will come a time when even all the money in the world will not be enough to get things ready .


What have you been thinking about all the problems related to the World Cup organization?

With all do respect to the World Cup, organizing the Olympics is much more complex. The World Cup has 64 games, 128 hours of live sports broadcast. The Olympics have four thousand hours. The World Cup is as much about 64 games and what happens on the pitch. The Olympics is much more towards the country and the population. How Brazil would like to be reminded when it’s time to get onstage? If all goes well, no one will remember the problems. But if we fail, this stain will continue for long.


The Sochi Winter Games were viewed with suspicion and have had success. The Rio Games are not in a similar situation?

Sochi was a huge problem, but in the end was successful and the Games will be remembered as such. There was a reason that worked well: [ Vladimir ] Putin. I'm not saying that Dilma [ Rousseff ] must do the same , but it takes someone from the government front to coordinate actions.


Do you think there will be protests against the Olympics?

I hope not. In my opinion, the protests seen in 2013 [during the Confederations Cup ] were much more connected to the waste of money on facilities whose use is not guaranteed after the World Cup. I think it would be fully possible to make the World Cup in eight stadiums. I have nothing against Manaus, but you need to check what is the legacy planned. The IOC has always been very attached to legacy and even suggests the organizers of the Olympics to assemble temporary and not permanent installations, to avoid waste. The World Cup has taken a different direction.

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