Rio Olympics organizers: Opening ceremony will be cheap
Estimates say that Rio will spend one-10th of what London spent in 2012
The opening and closing ceremonies for Rio Olympics and Paralympics will be low-budget productions compared to three years ago in London, or in Beijing in 2008.
The austerity reflects the reality of Rio's Olympics, which open in just over 10 1/2 months and are caught up in the economic and political upheaval besetting Brazil.
The country is mired in a recession, inflation has reached 10 per cent and there are calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.
Fernando Meirelles, the Brazilian filmmaker and part of the creative team, estimated Tuesday that Rio will spend one-tenth what London did on four major ceremonies.
"I would be ashamed to waste what London spent in a country where we need sanitation; where education needs money," Meirelles told reporters. "So I'm very glad we're not spending money like crazy."
London is reported to have spent about 80 million pounds ($104 million at 2012 exchange rates) on the four ceremonies.
Meirelles, who directed the film "City of God," said the budget for the ceremonies had always been tight, although Rio organizers have clearly been cutting in the last year.
Rio is spending about 39 billion reals ($10 billion) in public and private money to prepare the games.
In a letter obtained last week by The Associated Press, the governing body of swimming FINA complained to organizers and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes about reduced seating in the swimming arena from 17,000 to 13,000. The water polo venue was also moved to cut costs.
In the letter, former Olympic gold-medal swimmer Alexander Popov said Rio's swimming preparations were "a step back in relation to previous editions of the Games." He added that the cuts may have "its repercussion on the athletes."
'High-tech' being eliminated
Meirelles said "high-tech" was being eliminated from the ceremonies. He listed drones, complex aerial equipment and disappearing stages as items that Rio would do without. The emphasis will be on the basics.
"We don't have high culture," Meirelles said. "Of course we have some pianists, some maestros and some orchestras, but that's not us. We come from the roots. The beauty of Brazil comes from the roots."
Faced with other needs, Meirelles also questioned the value of Rio's Games.
"I'm not sure if I would approve an Olympics in Brazil, if this is a priority for us," he said. "But we're there and this is a great opportunity for the country, and we're going to do the best we can."
Meirelles divulged little about the ceremonies. He talked about showing a vision of the country "and what I hope it will become." He said he'd try to steer away from cliches, but not all of them.
"Having an Olympics in Rio without any mention of Carnival would be crazy," he said. "Carnival's not a cliche. People live Carnival."
Andrucha Waddington, another awarding-winning filmmaker who is part of the creative team, promised the ceremonies would reflect all of Brazil's roots — from its indigenous people to the 5 million African slaves who arrived in chains — 10 times more than arrived in the United States.
"I can say it will be from A to Z in the show," Waddington said. "And we will talk about this diversity. We are confident the show we will be outstanding without an outstanding budget."
Pressed for details, he also clammed up.
"We should hide as much as we can," he added. "The surprise factor is very important."