Oh, Rio

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The Olympics. The celebration of homo sapiens’ sporting prowess. The highest level of international sports. Arguably, the greatest competition in the entire world.

The Olympians have a preparation schedule that is nothing if not superhuman. They work hard and toil each and every day to keep their bodies in perfect condition, in order to compete on the greatest stage of sport.

The same can be said about the cities that are awarded the honor of hosting the Olympics every four years — at least it should be. But, for now, the prospect of Rio De Janeiro hosting the extravaganza seems to have been a huge mistake on the part of the International Olympic Committee.

The biggest problem facing Rio 2016 seems to be the Zika virus outbreak. The virus causes a number of problems, most notably, birth defects — contributing to underdeveloped brains and heads. The virus’ breakout has been partially blamed on the sewage mismanagement in Brazil. Rio, in particular, is the Brazilian city that has seen the highest number of Zika cases.

There is the argument that the games will be safer, considering they are taking place in the South American winter when mosquitoes are least active. I, however, feel that taking such a big medical risk at a time when the city will be visited by an estimated 480,000 people is, at the very least, unwarranted. Many prominent athletes who would have greatly improved the global scope and sheer watchability of these games, such as Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych, Simona Halep, Rory Mcilroy, Jordan Spieth and Tejay Van Garderen have withdrawn because of Zika concerns.

That being said, my biggest concern is the economic and political situation of Brazil and how the cost of hosting the Olympics just two years after hosting the FIFA World Cup can possibly have adverse effects on the country’s increasingly ailing economy. Dilma Roussef was recently temporarily impeached from the post of president because of her government being involved with Petrobras in the largest corruption scandal in Brazil. To compound that, the Brazilian economy has been in a recession since 2014, and experts predict it to worsen into 2017. Thus, when you think about it, the decision by not only the IOC to make Rio the host, but also the Brazilian government to take the burden, especially two years after hosting the FIFA World Cup, was catastrophic indeed. The country has had three different sports ministers in the last two months! The only thing more murky than the water in Rio, therefore, may be the motives of its precarious government.

In light of all this political instability, the security concerns in Rio have shot up exponentially. Very recently, severed body parts of a “woman or young adult” were found at the Copacabana, near the Olympic beach volleyball venue. From January to April, 2,036 inhabitants of the city were killed, primarily because of the police’s pursuit of notorious drug trafficker, Nicolas Labre Pereira. Rio is infamous for its high crime rate, and such concerns will be paramount during August. Also, one cannot discount the threat of IS(IS/IL), and the current instability in the country might be advantageous for the terror outfit. I’m really hoping that the games do not witness another Munich.

What is baffling to me is that the IOC, and more importantly the city councils and national governments, haven’t learned of the negative effects that hosting the Olympics can have on a city and a country’s economy. Athens in 2004 is perhaps the prime example of how bad things can go, as it led Greece into insurmountable public debt and was the catalyst for the recent Greek debt crisis. What it left was venues that remain unused ghost towns today and therefore can’t contribute to the economy in any manner whatsoever. All in all, a dead investment.

I fear that Rio will end up in a similar manner. The city has spent heavily on making new tourist accommodations that will surely not be used by the public once the games are over, pointing to another loss-making investment. Moreover, there are quality concerns with the work, according to recent photos surfacing on social media outlets.

Generally, Olympics are hosted efficiently by cities that had staged the tournament before. London 2012 was successful because the city had the existing infrastructure (and experience) to deal with the different facets of hosting the games as well as Lord Sebastian Coe, chair of the British Olympic Association in 2012. The other aspect of successfully hosting games is developed economies (I’m looking at you Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000). Beijing stands as the only exception to the trend, but it was because of the organization that the Chinese government provided. To think that Chicago and Tokyo lost out to Rio is mind boggling.

Hosting the Olympics is a matter of national pride and honor. If it in any way presents the possibility of putting the livelihoods of the nation’s people at high risk, then such a risk is better off not taken.

Contact Devang Prasad at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DevangPrasad.

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