Rio 2016 Reverses Course: Olympians Will Now Get Free Air-Con

  • Organizers considered charging for athlete air conditioning
  • Rio 2016 trying to balance budget after $520 million overrun

Organizers of Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympics have changed course and will now provide air conditioning in 10,500 athlete bedrooms after initially planning to ask for payment as part of cost-cutting measures aimed at reducing a $520 million budget overrun.

The local organizing committee is completing a budget review to slash costs and to ensure it can stay within its 7.4 billion reais ($2 billion) budget, avoiding the need to seek a handout from the Brazilian government amid the worst economic crisis in a generation.

“Given that the 2016 Games are taking place in winter time in Rio, the requirement for air conditioning within the bedrooms of the Olympic Village was one of the decisions being carefully considered,” Rio 2016 said in a statement. “Following the review process, it has been decided that air conditioning will be provided by Rio 2016 and this expenditure has been approved by the procurement committee.”

Earlier this week the group said it didn’t deem air conditioning an essential item and it would probably be cut. Bloomberg News reported the plan to charge for air conditioning on Thursday. National Olympic associations, including that of Australia, had also been told that athletes would instead be provided with fans.

“There may be athletes who have to compete in hot conditions and for all sports we have extensive recovery plans in place, as we do at all games,” Andrew Reid, a spokesman for the Australian Olympic Committee said in a statement.

Across the Board

Rio 2016 is looking to pare costs across the board, and has decided VIPs attending the event can make do without gourmet food or luxury cars. The committee also plans to have 500 fewer paid staff than the 5,000 it originally expected. The deepest cuts will probably come from operational areas like catering, transportation and cleaning services.

The local economy has unraveled since Rio was awarded the Games –- South America’s first -- six years ago. At the time, Brazil’s government pledged $700 million toward any budgetary overrun. Then the economy tanked. Unemployment has soared, and the local currency, the real, has lost one-third of its value against the dollar this year.

Organizers have a long stated aim of not using any public resources to meet the organizing cost of the games. They expect to reap funds from sponsorships, ticket sales, and a grant from the International Olympic Committee.

For the hundreds of millions of people who watch the Olympics on television or online, all of the cost-cutting should be invisible. Organizers have assured broadcast partners that there will be no changes to what they were promised, and there are no plans to scale down any of the competition-specific infrastructure.

“There has been no ‘cut’ to the overall budget. We are currently going through the regular process of reviewing our expenditure, making sensible decisions and finding creative solutions to ensure we maintain a balanced budget while delivering unique and memorable Games in 2016,” the Rio 2016 statement added.

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