A report from the Evening Standard makes a bonkers claim today: That London will be a backup if Rio can't get its act together for the Summer 2016 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee denies it. But that's a hell of a mixed message—just last week, an IOC Vice President said that Rio's preparations are "the worst I have experienced."
First of all: This is a claim from an anonymous source. So take the Evening Standard story with a gigantic block of salt. But even if it's not true, this is an interesting rumor—and it hints at how the business of the Olympics (and the business of city development) are shifting in the wake of Sochi.
At an Olympic forum in Sydney on April 29th, an IOC Vice President named John Coates really let it rip, with assorted burns including:
"We have become very concerned. They are not ready in many, many ways. And this is against a city that's got social issues that also have to be addressed; a country that's also trying to deal with the FIFA World Cup coming up in a few months."
"I think this is a worse situation than Athens."
"There is bureaucracy, there is little coordination between the federal, the state government and the city — which is responsible for a lot of the construction."
"[The preparations are] the worst I have experienced"
Today, the IOC issued a statement flatly denying the rumors, so it seems this is just a case of the UK media getting a chance to pound their chests over their excellent event planning skills, as Gizmodo UK suggests. But Rio has struggled with prep: From the fairly horrifying state of the water sports site, to the fact that only four of 52 planned Olympic projects are complete, to reports that the city's police have plans to strike during the World Cup.
Interestingly enough, it turns out that London has hosted the games in an emergency before. In 1908, when Mount Vesuvius erupted and devastated Italy, London stepped in to host the games. So there is precedent for emergency measures.
Still, it seems pretty unlikely that the IOC is planning to give the Olympics back to London again. But there is one caveat to this guessing game: Sochi. The IOC endured an incredible media shitstorm over the unpreparedness of its last host city. Either way, we're rooting for you, Rio. [Washington Post; Evening Standard; Wall Street Journal]