Trump Hotel Rush Adds to Rio Summer Olympics Lodging Crunch

The Trump Hotel in Rio de Janeiro's western Barra da Tijuca district is under construction on April 21, 2016.

The Trump Hotel in Rio de Janeiro's western Barra da Tijuca district is under construction on April 21, 2016.

Photographer: Nadia Susman/Bloomberg
  • Olympic federations have back-up hotel in case Trump delayed
  • Holiday Inn postponed opening two Rio hotels until 2017

Builders behind Rio de Janeiro’s first Trump-branded hotel are racing to open the property in July, just weeks before the Summer Olympics. Not all lodgers are confident they’ll make it.

Several international sports federations, who are slated to stay at the Trump Hotel in the tourist district of Barra de Tijuca, were told by Olympic organizers last week that they are concerned it won’t be ready on time and a back-up hotel has been arranged. “That is the one we fear,” Agberto Guimaraes, Rio 2016’s director of sport, told the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations last week in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Still, the Trump is further along than two Holiday Inns that were expected to be ready for the event. This month InterContinental Hotels Group Plc said the sites have been delayed until after the games in 2017. In an e-mailed response, Trump Hotels said its developer has assured the hotel will open in the posh Jardim Oceanico sub-district of Barra de Tijuca before the first Olympics in South America.

While Rio is largely on track to deliver sports infrastructure in time for the games, which begin Aug. 5, the accommodation challenges highlight how things can go awry in the final stretch. A recent inspection delegation from the International Olympic Committee concluded there were “thousands and thousands of little things” left to complete. Among the biggest concerns is the indoor cycling track, which has missed several deadlines. A test event there has been pushed back to late June.

Bigger worries relate to incomplete infrastructure works, particularly a critical subway extension that will link the southern tourist zone to the western part of the city where the majority of events will take place. The collapse last week of a new bike path, opened in January and trumpeted as a legacy of the Olympics, will do little to inspire faith in Rio’s ability to be ready on time. At least two people died when a 50-meter section of the elevated cycle path collapsed into the Atlantic ocean below. More went missing.

“Whilst substantial progress has been made in venue construction during the last
months, lots of details ensuring operational readiness will still need to be
addressed during the remaining months,” the group representing the summer federations said in a statement. “We feel this is solvable, but will require swift decisions and action.”

Organizers have booked 28,000 rooms for clients. That doesn’t include an athletes village for participants or spectators expected to travel to Rio. The city won’t hit its promised target for hotel expansions and is relying on partners like Airbnb to fill any gaps.

About 90 percent of rooms at three-, four- and five-star hotels have been booked by delegations, said Alfredo Lopes, the president of hotel association ABIH’s Rio branch. Even amid the deepest recession in a century, the outbreak of the Zika virus, and political turmoil with President Dilma Rousseff facing impeachment, it will be hard to find a room during the games, he said.

“We’re going to have occupancy close to 100 percent in the city,” Lopes said in an interview. “The volume of bad financial and political news hasn’t affected these profits from the Olympics.”

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