Has There Ever Been A Less Prepared Olympic Host Than Rio?

Photo Courtesy: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports


Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS

Commentary by Casey Barrett

These are grim days for the Games. Doping scandals are pumping fast and furious. The usual dark clouds of corruption and bribery hover. The credibility of IOC leaders is at an all time low. And in 80 days the Summer Olympics in Rio will begin.

In the days and months before a Games begin it’s not uncommon for the media to start throwing up red flags of hysteria. Athens in 2004 wasn’t the least bit prepared. They were planting saplings in front of the Olympic Stadium the day before the Opening Ceremony. Sochi in 2014 was a sick joke of corruption and shameless Putin cronyism. Salt Lake City in 2002 was beset by a bribery scandal. Beijing in 2008 began under true allegations of rampant human rights abuse. These days it’s more the rule than the exception for an Olympic host to be attacked with all the ways they’re unworthy.

All that finger pointing at these host cities past, it was all true. And all of them managed to pull off their Games with reasonable success, without international incident. But this time it seems to go a bit deeper.

Brazil is a mess. Rio, the epicenter of that mess. Sure, Russia and China could care less about its citizens; we still knew both nations would stage a well-run Olympics, even as we chose not to peak behind the curtain at these countries’ true natures. Sure, Salt Lake City embodied the dark heart corruption of capitalism and shady back room deals. And of course Greece was a disorganized fiasco. It’s Greece. They’ve been coasting on the whole Founding Father of the Games thing for a damn long time. But with Rio, here’s what we’re looking at 80 days out:

A country and a city at the white hot infected center of the Zika virus. The host nation’s president suspended and facing impeachment. The country itself mired in its worst recession in 80 years. Or, as the New York Times said a few days back: “Never has a host nation been in such economic or political turmoil before an Olympics.” 

The paper even featured a point-counterpoint feature debating whether Brazil should postpone the Olympics.

Somehow, every time we go down this doomsday road, it always seems to work out. Whether it’s the World Cup or the Olympics (really the only two comparable world-uniting sporting events on earth), all the troubles in the lead up end up being set aside for a glorious few weeks of blithe vicarious thrills. It’s like the entire world pops a few Xanax and decides to soak in the competition with a sigh. We know the aftermath is going to be ugly for these cities, but that’s, like, for them to figure out.

The Games must go on.

Let’s hope it all goes as simply and as irresponsibly 80 days from now. Because it might not. At some point the Olympic fairy dust may run dry and things can go very bad indeed. Munich wasn’t that long ago. As much as swimmers would like to remember Mark Spitz as the face of those Games, in the big grim picture he was just a footnote.

For every Olympics in my lifetime I’ve managed to tune out all the noise and enjoy the spectacle as soon as the flame was lit. But this time it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the horizon.

All comentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Lauralee Lowrey
7 years ago

What part of third world does the Olympic Committee not understand?

Lynette Washburn
7 years ago

Rio should never have been chosen.

Christian Avard
7 years ago

Where in Brazil are they going to have the open water swim events?

Lauralee Lowrey
7 years ago

In the poop in the ocean

Gail Roper
Gail Roper
7 years ago

No sewage to swim through. Open water will be at the south end of Copacabana beach by the Fort. No problems, don’t worry, no poop.

Cynthia Granata
7 years ago

Seriously, the selection of Rio was utterly without regard to its suitability–one would hope that the US would show some leadership, at least with respect to demanding that the open water swimming, triathlon, and boating events take place elsewhere, rather than in that open sewer… The health risks clearly outweigh the benefits of competing in those conditions–despite the magical thinking and b.s. about the water quality being disseminated, even though this nonsense is in deference to the respect owed the athletes who have trained hard and devoted their lives to a chance at Olympic competition. Where the IOC is so clearly misguided, if not outright corrupt, here, one would at least hope the US Olympic committee would not reward it through fecklessness that the athletes end up paying for with their health, safety, and lives

Mike Rochelle
Mike Rochelle
7 years ago

If the international community can build a space station that is successfully staffed and operated, why can’t we just build, maintain, and staff a permanent venue for the olympics and split the profit (if there is any). Seems like it would be a lot easier than re-inventing the whole thing every four years.

7 years ago

At this point in time, there really are only 2 options with regards to the event itself. Cross fingers, toes and whatever else and hope it was all be all right on the night (or as near as possible) or “can it”. The latter is, without a doubt, the sensible option but one that leaves the IOC on the hook for monumental breach of contract suits from all directions.

The option of switching the entire show “lock stock and barrel” to any alternate city, even the previous host London, expired early 2014 given the logistics involved. Whilst London could still host some sports, too many venues have either been massively redeveloped or dismantled.

The other potential scenario was that of doling out the various sports to whatever cities/countries that may be able to stage a major international event at short notice and labelling them the Olympic competition for that sport. A precedent exists; that of the equestrian events in 1956 which were held in Stockholm due to Australian quarantine laws. Sadly, the clock ran out on that one early this year …. even with the option of holding these events later than the scheduled Games.

Has the clock ran out on the Olympics themselves ? Who knows it will be a miracle if “the brand” doesn’t take an enormous battering with regards to Rio on top of the corruption & doping scandals enveloping major sports. In many countries, the “care factor” is significantly diminished and there is very little appetite in many countries for spending on what are now perceived as “circuses” when there are demands for expenditure on national infrastructure/health & education.

Eric Thompson
7 years ago

No. It is and will be a disaster. I hope they move the boating and swimming events out of respect for the athletes. Awful.

An Ne
7 years ago

nice -.-

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