Rio de Janeiro and the “olympic experience”

 In Brazil every kid starts playing street football very early. It’s in our blood. As a professional I started at Sao Cristovao in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Of course I also played in the beach soccer league, barefoot.  – Ronaldo

I have been staying in Rio de Janeiro for the past 5 days on business and have fallen in love with the city.  Spectacular scenery, mountains and harbour, lush vegetation all around, and of course the “Cariocas” as the Rio people are called.  Rio is pretty much the opposite of Sao Paulo; laid back, fun loving, warm, friendly.  As one of my new business partners said:  “In Sao Paolo they live to work but in Rio we work to live!”

There’s lots of good news in this beautiful city that is being propelled by the booming Brazilian economy.  But there are also some opportunities disguised as challenges and I don’t believe the Brazilian government and the officials in Rio see the real danger in their recent success.

If you don’t already know, Brazil will be hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.  A great opportunity for the world to visit Brazil and of course one of the places everyone must go is Rio!

What is the government doing to get ready to give the world a positive experience? Like most host nations they are focusing on building physical venues – sports arenas, competition grounds, swimming venues, etc.  Lots of money being spent and big contracts being awarded.

But venues are only a part of the overall Olympic experience.  My concern for Brazil is not just adequate venues and infrastructure, but the equally important “visitor experience”.  The good news is the government has cracked down on street crime and is winning that war.  And buses seem to be new and everywhere.  And the taxis must be kept clean (inside and out) and taken off the road and fixed if they have body damage. So far, great.

But there’s another challenge that seems be ignored.  The taxi drivers speak only Portuguese and only a very few speak Spanish.  Almost none speak English, French, Chinese, etc.  And in my 5 day experience, unless you are in a taxi with locals who speak Portuguese and know the city, the taxi drivers are less than “honest”; pretending to get lost and winding up adding about double to your bill by taking the long way around.  In a word, the customer experience of taxis in Rio is not Olympic standard.

What percentage of the cost of the games is the Brazilian government going to put into the visitor experience?  The good news is there is still time to turn this once in a lifetime tourist opportunity for the country into a great experience for everyone that will put Rio, Sao Paolo and Brazil on the global tourist map.

And I see a great business opportunity for an innovative company capable of providing effective and efficient language instruction combined with technology and training for the taxi drivers and the rest of the hospitality industry in Rio.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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