Airbnb shortlisted to provide rooms for Rio 2016 Olympics

Chris Weeks | Getty Images for Airbnb

Online home rental marketplace Airbnb is one of three companies being considered to provide extra rooms for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as the city scrambles to accommodate fans and athletes visiting, three sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters.

An Olympic contract would be a major step into the mainstream for Airbnb, which allows landlords to rent out their properties on a temporary basis. The company has become one of Silicon Valley’s most successful start-ups in the five years since it was founded by a trio of Rhode Island School of Design and Harvard graduates.

It would also potentially be the first time a major sporting event has turned to the general public, and its extra rooms, to solve a short-term spike in accommodation demand. By contrast, in London for the 2012 Olympics, some homeowners faced potential fines for renting out their properties during the Games.

Airbnb declined to comment.

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The other two shortlisted companies are AlugueTemporada and Hotel Urbano.

Accommodation in Rio has long been a concern for the International Olympic Committee and it was again singled out as an area where progress needed to be made by IOC Coordination Commission Chair Nawal El Moutawakel at a conference release in Rio on Wednesday.

Speaking at the same conference, Carlos Nuzman, chairman of the local organizing committee, said Rio already had 36,000 of the roughly 40,000 rooms it needed for the Olympics. But he added that the committee was working to get more housing.

“We could be in a position where we can offer much more than expected and the additional supply could reach 18,000, half of the total amount we have now,” Nuzman said.

Partnering with a company such as Airbnb could also help provide more cost-effective options for visiting fans. The FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil in 2014, was criticized for the cost of accommodation, especially in Rio where the final was played.

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