TRANSPORT appears to be the biggest hurdle facing Rio de Janeiro just over 1000 days out from hosting the next Olympic Games.
This is the view of Tasmanian Institute of Sport director Paul Austen whose conclusion from a visit to the 2016 host city is that its facilities and atmosphere have the potential to overcome the logistical problems of its overworked road network.
``The most obvious observation is that for a city of seven million people with a reported five million motor vehicles, their transport infrastructure is going to be under pressure all the time,'' he said.
``Clearly transportation requirements are going to be very challenging to solve and one of the most challenging components for people in Rio.
``But what the city has to offer in terms of its spectacular setting and vibrant people should more than compensate for any shortcomings that may arise in the hosting of the Games.
``I think it will be an exciting event both in location and atmosphere. Rio is a spectacular place.''
Austen, who joined other institute of sport directors on the National Elite Sports Council delegation from Australia, used his attendance at a football match at the famous Maracana stadium - venue for the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies - to illustrate both the best and worst aspects of the city.
He said his group left their hotel at 7.45pm for a 9.50pm kick-off but missed the entire first half after arriving nearly an hour late due to traffic congestion.
They then witnessed first-hand the passion which characterises Brazilian fans and, Austen believes, will underpin both the 2016 Olympics and next year's football world cup.
``One of the greatest challenges to participating athletes, based on my experiences at the football, will be the passion and emotional energy that Brazilians demonstrate at sporting events,'' he said.
``The atmosphere inside the stadiums will be electric and clearly our athletes will need to be well skilled in managing such high pressure competition environments. The fans are incredibly energetic, passionate, noisy people.''
A small demonstration outside the governor's residence was the only evidence the delegation witnessed of the social unrest taking place across Brazil in protest at the huge expenditure on the global events.
But Austen said a visit to some of the Olympic venues was an eye-opener.
``There is still a long way to go with construction,'' he said.
``Clearly the biggest hurdle they face is solving the transport issues but the second is getting the facilities finished on time.
``But it's not unusual to get a whole range of questions about how a host city is going to cope three years out from the Games.''
With several venues to remain after the event and others being converted into schools, Austen believes the next Olympics will have a sound legacy for its hosts.
``When you look at the impact of staging the biggest sporting event in the world, I would say the benefits from the sporting infrastructure and what it means for a country to host an Olympics will over time outweigh the short-term financial impost on the city.
``It was incredible to see every section of beach used for either soccer or volleyball. The people who live in Rio are keen to participate in outdoor activities and this will give them more opportunity to do that.''
The delegation was hosted by the Brazilian Olympic Committee and visited the host country's team headquarters as well as the Maracana and venues for the archery, diving, water polo and the Copacabana, where beach volleyball, open-water swim and triathlon will be staged.