LONDON – Four years ago, London Mayor Boris Johnson was where Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes is now – in the throes of preparing to host the Olympic Games.
Asked to compare how he felt then with how he feels now with the games drawing to a close, Johnson said it was “the difference between spine-tingling apprehension and a steadily growing sense of relief.”
Both mayors were in high spirits and quick to joke around when they spoke at a joint press conference focusing on the partnership between the two cities as London prepares to pass the title of host city to Rio. Rio and London have made a number of agreements, including Rio’s hiring of a London firm to design Olympic Village and retaining London consultants to lend their expertise to Rio’s preparations, the mayors said.
Paes spoke highly of London’s logistical preparations and said he was impressed with how efficiently London’s transportation services dealt with the influx of Olympic visitors. Rio is making drastic improvements to its mass transit system as it prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Paes hopes the end result will match London’s in efficiency.
Johnson said the legacy of the London games is bright.
“I think the big winner in this whole business has been not just London but the brand of the U.K. as a whole,” he said.
Paes spoke about the progress Brazil has made over the past two decades and the opportunity the Olympics provide to showcase that to the rest of the world. He hopes the Olympics in Rio will reflect as positively on that city as the games have in London.
“I don’t feel that the games are actually about the games of sports,” he said. “The games have to do with the transformation of a brand, of a city, of a place, of a country.”