Alex Ellis

Ambassador to Brazil

Guest blogger for Consular Communications

Part of Stay Ahead of the Games

29th July 2016 London, UK

Rio 2016: one week to go!

Yes, one week to the Opening Ceremony.

Readers who were in London during 2012 will remember what this means: a strange mix of public anxiety – worries about public transport, traffic, readiness of the city been questioned, problems, problems and problems; and also private excitement as the event gets closer.

Rio is no different – it’s a big, complicated city which is hosting the Games for the first time; they are also the first South American Olympics and Paralympics. Most of the venues have been ready for some time, but there have been delays in the transport infrastructure, and the city is going through a tough recession.

But the games are coming; the unofficial countdown has begun with the arrival of Usain Bolt.


London and Rio have worked closely together; indeed Seb Coe said no two host cities have ever worked so closely. More than 300 observers from Rio went to London in 2012 and there has been regular dialogue ever since. Lots of people who worked on London 2012 are part of the Rio 2016 organisation. One of the joys of the Olympics is that each host city is different. But there’s been plenty of continuity as well.

I remember that the atmosphere began to change in London when I started to literally run or cycle into athletes from all over the world on my way to work. It finally felt real. Now imagine this happening on Copacabana beach, where the volleyball will take place, or the Lagoa, home for the rowing.

Despite the recession and other frustrations, cariocas – the people of Rio – are very proud of their city, and also very welcoming. The decade long transformation of Rio, of which the Olympics and Paralympics are only part, has brought a new metro line and tram system, 20,000 new hotel rooms, the Olympic Park in Barra, the fast-growing region of the city; and a superb renovated downtown area – where the Olympic Flame will burn, for the first time outside of a stadium, and where the Olympic Boulevard, the main live site, will be located. The area also includes the Museum of Tomorrow, which is well worth a visit.

I am writing from the capital, Brasilia, one of the football cities of the Games, 1200 kms from Rio. This is a reminder of the vast scale of Brazil. You can take a 5 hour flight without leaving the country. It’s well worth getting out of Rio to see the extraordinary diversity of the country, from the Amazon to the wetlands of the Pantanal. Be prepared; you will need to check which vaccinations might be necessary. Please visit Foreign Office advice for Brazil to clarify. You will need jabs for the Amazon – I was there last year for the Parintins Folklore Festival, one of the most extraordinary events that I have ever been to.

Rio image

I cannot write about health without mentioning zika. Yes, it is a concern, but now is winter time which is Rio’s dry season and so there are fewer mosquitoes. Our advice is to cover up, protect yourself with spray and if you are pregnant, or intend to get pregnant soon, avoid non-essential travel. Check the Travel Health Pro website before travelling.

Brazil, and Brazilians are resilient and capable of getting a lot done at short notice. During the 1950s, they built a new capital in the middle of the country in five years. In 2013, the site of a 1 million people mass with Pope Francis was changed with only 48 hours of notice. And the 2014 World Cup was a success (England’s performance aside). All this was done with an inevitable energy to celebrate.

So come in and join the party. It is going to be amazing. And, please, ‘Stay Ahead of the Games’. Only one week to go.

Download or order a printed copy of our ‘Games Guide’. It has a map with transport links, Games venues and points of interest. There is also useful info about Rio, top tips for a trouble-free visit and our contact info if needed.