With exactly a year to go for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil`s president Dilma Rousseff writes exclusively for TOI on the extensive steps taken by her country to deliver on its promise of the grandest, most diversified Games in recent times. Education and sport are the best allies to ensure social inclusion and integration, and the country hopes to become a symbol of solidarity through the Games, writes the president.
We are still one year away from it, but Brazil's heart is already beating faster.
The Brazilian generous heart leaps up when confronted with two of its passions: welcoming people from all over the world and competing with enthusiasm and fair play in a superb sport performance.
We have seen it happening during the FIFA World Cup. It will be like that again, beginning on August 5 2016, when we will light with the Olympic flame our passion for sport and will hoist the flag bearing the five interlocking rings at our magnificent Maracana stadium.
It is not by chance that Brazil was given the honour of being the first South American country to host the Olympic Games. Brazil is known worldwide for its impressive and diversified landscape. We are also a country with a history of tolerance and respect for diversity which has become an international symbol of sociability.
Indeed, we have welcomed different peoples and cultures with hospitality and happiness. Our people - our workers, businesspeople, students, scientists and artists - managed to build one of the most open nations in the world, thanks to their creative capacity, friendliness and solidarity. We have built a vigorous culture of peace and work. That set of values guides our hard work to turn these coming Olympics into the best ever world sports festivity.
We have achieved it during the FIFA World Cup and we have everything it takes to repeat it at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
This is a major challenge which we are overcoming day after day, hour after hour, long before the competitions actually start. The preparation process for the Games began with investment in the most important asset of all: our athletes. It went on with massive investments in sport infrastructure and will reach its peak with the great ongoing urban restructuring of Rio de Janeiro - doubtlessly the most beautiful natural landscape for the Olympic Games since Ancient Greece. Throughout the last few years we made huge public investments to ensure adequate material support to our athletes, their coaches and teams, with such programs as the "Athlete Scholarship" and the "Brazilian Medals Plan".
Our outstanding athletes have succeeded in continuously improving their performances with each competition. They are our great stars and source of inspiration. The results achieved by Brazil in the last Pan American Games are a concrete example of the drive of our athletes. These investments in people and infrastructure will bring far reaching results in future years, beyond the time frame of the Olympic Games.
Indeed, we are disseminating sport practice in our country among the young, with investments in sport facilities for a wide range of sport modalities throughout the country. This will be the greatest legacy which we will reap from the Rio 2016 Games. We believe that education and sport are our best allies to ensure social inclusion and integration. Through them we stimulate young people to fight for their goals, to experience the joy of breaking limits, to learn teamwork and respect for their competitors.
Sport inspires in us a culture of cooperation, of honouring, ethic and hard work as means to reach our goals and celebrate our achievements. Combining it to the natural joy and self-esteem of our hospitable and welcoming people will produce the greatest legacy of the Rio 2016 Games.
We will also have the monumental legacy of urban modernisation of Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful cities in the world and our national postcard. Two thirds of the financial resources allocated to the 2016 Rio Games are being invested in urban infrastructure works for the city.
A wide range of infrastructure works are under way: a new metro line, a tramway connecting the whole of downtown Rio and express lanes for buses which will interconnect all competition venues. The aim of much of this investment is to improve public transportation and commuting for people during and after the games, in particular people who live in the most remote quarters and need public transportation of high quality.
Urban transformation is not all.
The Rio Harbour area, for example, will become a new leisure and culture quarter for local population and for thousands of tourists which we receive each year. In the future, "Porto Maravilha" will house new office and residential buildings. We are recuperating the brightness of the Marvelous City which has enchanted the world ever since it was the capital of our country.
The 2016 Rio Olympic Games strongly attracted investments from the Brazilian private sector - and not only for sponsoring or for building and modernising the new hotel network.
For example, the Barra Olympic Park, was built to a great extent with private investment, including works on local infrastructure. The Olympic Village, that will host athletes from all over the world, is also being constructed by the private sector, which has begun to sell these apartments. It is possible to state, therefore, that the 2016 Rio Games will receive one of the highest levels of private investment if compared to previous Olympic Games in the last 20 years.
The Deodoro Sport Complex, one of the competition venues, located in the middle of a deprived area and having the largest concentration of youngsters of Rio de Janeiro, will become a space for local population to practice radical sports. It will also be a training stage for our best athletes.
The Barra Olympic Park will be the foundation for the future Olympic training centre, responsible for preparing the country's future high level athletes. It will also enhance sport cooperation with other countries, especially with our neighbours from South America.
This effort is being stimulated by investments allover Brazil. In total, there are 12 training centres and 261 sport initiation centres, in addition to the 46 official athletics tracks. The investment on the sport legacy in Rio and in the country sums up to US$ 1.2 billion.
We are also providing for the cost-efficiency as well as the sustainability of the facilities. One example is Future Arena, the venue of the handball competitions at the Olympic Park. The Arena is made with temporary modules, which will be dismantled after the Games and converted into four schools.
Ensuring the smooth operation of this great project has required constant attention and a joint effort by the local, state and federal government, as well as the Organising Committee and the Olympic Public Authority. All parties will remain fully committed until the end of the Paralympic Games in September 2016.
An event with such complexity also requires constant attention to details. Rio's infrastructure and Olympic projects are already being tested with the first events taking place throughout the city. By early 2016, we will have held competitions in 40 sports modalities.
Brazil is fully prepared for the upcoming Games. In cooperation with the event's organisers, we will proudly show the world the recent accomplishments of a strong and well-functioning democracy which is committed to reducing social inequalities through economic development and investment. This is the collective effort of an entire country.
Our energy to overcome challenges will be demonstrated to all the 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, the thousands of spectators and the billions of viewers. Athletes and tourists will be warmly welcomed by the Brazilian society, as it happened in the 2014 World Cup, when the country charmed the world with its festive atmosphere and overall safety and efficiency. At that time, all those watching our festivities on TV certainly wanted to be here in Brazil.
In 2016, do not just long to be in Brazil - come enjoy all the good that the Olympic Games can give you during this one-time event - and all that a country like Brazil can offer you at any time: peace, love, joy, and lots of happiness!
We are waiting for you with open arms and hearts.