Figure of Christ with Olympic rings

Rio 2016: The challenges of the largest multicultural gathering in the world.

How do you balance the needs of thousands of people from over 200 different countries, all living together in a complex made up of 31 buildings? This is the challenge facing Mario Cilentri, manager of Rio’s Olympic Village. eSense Translations looks at the problems he has faced and the solutions put in place to resolve them.

This August, more than 10,000 athletes have descended on Rio de Janeiro with the expectation of receiving good quality creature comforts in the Olympic Village in the run up to their competition. Alongside the mass number of athletes, are over 13,000 staff and volunteers, including coaches, doctors and physiotherapists.

The aim of the Olympic Village, according, Mario Cilenti, is to make it self contained, so that the “athletes don’t need to leave the village…They can go out to compete and come straight back.”

Having so many people living in such close quarters is a challenge in itself. With the emotions and stress of the competition and the fact that the athletes are coming from a wide range of cultures, with different languages and religions, new more complex challenges present themselves.

Mario Cilenti and his huge army of staff have arranged for a wide range of entertainment on the site, from video games to musical instruments, snooker tables, gyms and table tennis, not to mention the excellent provision of food and beverages to suit a variety of tastes. The Olympic Village also has a florist, a beauty salon and (potentially controversially for the athletes’ health, but nonetheless a known favourite of Usain Bolt!) a McDonalds!

With a mix of such a range of backgrounds, it is not surprising that some countries do not always enjoy amicable relationships and thus have requested to be placed away from each other. It is not only diplomatic reasons that trigger this; countries with different cultures have different ways of preparing for the Games and/or relaxing. Noise can be an issue for some and those with a reputation for enjoying a party have been thoughtfully located alongside those with a similar outlook.

To cater for the many religions practised by the athletes, a multi-faith centre has been established to satisfy their spiritual needs. Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu faiths are all represented with meditation rooms, religious images and holy books. There is even a compass indicating the way to Mecca. Father Leandro Lenin Tavares, a Rio de Janeiro priest coordinating the centre commented that, “Our job is to provide athletes with a place where they can find comfort and spiritual peace, whatever their religion.”

Despite some early teething problems due to condition of the accommodation, with the Australians initially refusing to move into theirs, the warmth of the Brazilian welcome cannot be denied. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro even offered to find a kangaroo to put outside the Australian’s block to help them feel more at home!

Now the Games are under way, eSense Translations would like to wish all the athletes the best of luck and hope they thoroughly enjoy their time in Rio.

By Lorna Paice

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