Swimmers praise venue as organisers test operations across 33 departments and learn more valuable lessons
After the successful triathlon and road cycling test events at Fort Copacabana earlier this month, it was marathon swimming that brought to an end the series of competitions allowing preparations to be fine-tuned at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games venue. Under a blazing winter sun that generated temperatures of 34 degrees, the men’s and women’s 10km races produced tight contests in sea waters that contrasted sharply in temperature at 18 degrees.
Rio 2016 had 150 people working at its eighth test event – 60 full-time staff and 90 volunteers – from 33 different departments. The main challenge was also the main focus of testing: the competition area. In a sport that occurs 100 per cent in the sea, the logistics for competition management and media operations had to be delivered amid the variable conditions produced by the tide, wave power and water temperature.
“It was very good to test operations in rough seas, as this made our team more focused and meant they learned more,” said Gustavo Nascimento, Rio 2016’s venue management director.
Rio 2016 sport director Rodrigo Garcia played a lead role in the decision to move the starting platform between Saturday (the men’s race) and Sunday (the women’s race) to provide the best possible conditions for the athletes.“Saturday was more difficult because of the sea conditions, but the team responded well. We detected some necessary adjustments, but we are on the right track,” he said.
In the water, the events were contested by the same number of swimmers who will compete at the Olympic Games next year: 25 men and 25 women. Brazil’s Allan do Carmo, who has already qualified for the Rio 2016 Games, topped the men’s podium in two hours, three minutes and 53.9 seconds – 0.5 seconds ahead of Japan’s Yasunari Hirai. The bronze medal was won by Canada’s London 2012 bronze medallist Richard Weinberger, who is also already confirmed for Rio 2016, and finished 3.8 seconds behind Do Carmo.
“This time the competition happened shortly after the world championships, but next year all the swimmers will be in peak condition – it won’t be two swimmers arriving at the finish together, it will be seven or eight,” said Do Carmo. “I’m sure the beach will be completely full for next year’s competitions, like it was for the 2007 Pan-American Games, and the energy of the fans will help the athletes even more.”
“Copacabana is a great location for an Olympic competition,” said Italy’s Simone Ruffini, the 25km world champion who came fourth on Saturday and is already qualified for Rio 2016. “Here the competition will take place in real open waters, not in lakes, like in Beijing and London (the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games).”
Great Britain’s Keri-Anne Payne won the women’s race on Sunday, finishing in 2:12:18.7. Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha finished 1.2 second behind to take the silver medal, with Germany’s Isabelle Harle taking bronze, 4.3 seconds behind Payne.
“Rio is one of my most favourite cities in the world,” said Payne, who took silver in Beijing and came fourth in London. “Copacabana has all the qualities necessary for a good venue. For an Olympic venue, it could not be more iconic, historical and fun. Swimming here is so good that there was one moment in the race when I stopped to appreciate where I was. Seeing Christ the Redeemer with his arms open while competing is incredible. We’ll be able to tell people in the future: ‘I competed at Copacabana beach.’”
Click here to see the full results from the men and women races.
The next Rio 2016 test event will the beach volleyball competition, also on Copacabana beach, between 1 and 6 of September. Click here to find out more about the test events.