The Rio Olympics opening ceremonies are tonight, which prompts this question: My God, are they really going through with this?
Athlete housing is not complete. Media housing is not complete. Venues aren't complete. The Australian delegation was robbed when it evacuated its housing due to a possible fire though the fire alarm that was supposed to inform them of fires didn't work. The water isn't safe and athletes in some aquatic events are being advised to either not compete, or if possible, keep their heads above the water and not swallow.
The government of Brazil has essentially collapsed and now resembles some dystopian nightmare. Crime is rampant (the ceremonies tonight reportedly feature a video in which Brazil native Gisele Bundchen is mugged). Just last week the mother-in-law of Bernie Ecclestone — the big shot billionaire who runs Formula 1 — was kidnapped from her home outside of São Paulo, Brazil. And don't forget the Zika virus.
The idea of the Olympics is a good one: the greatest athletes in sports meeting in head-to-head competition at a neutral venue. But in execution it's turned into a corrupt nightmare siphoning millions and millions of dollars from host countries while leaving behind empty shells of buildings that may never be used again. Beyond the corruption, there's the whole underlying propaganda angle — who can forget Germany in 1936, or Los Angeles in 1984? Then there were the boycotts of the Moscow Games and the Los Angeles Games? It's no longer about the individual performances, but is instead about how many medals each country wins.
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Who remembers Houston's attempt at landing the 2012 Olympics? A bid that, while many acknowledged Houston had better facilities and a better financial plan, lost out to San Francisco and New York for the U.S. bid — which in turn lost to London to host the games. Who was really upset that Houston didn't get awarded those games? Who really wanted three weeks of traffic nightmares, oversold and overpriced hotels and motels stretching as far away as Huntsville? And despite the numerous existing stadiums, the International Olympic Committee would undoubtedly have demanded more, bigger and newer facilities.
The costs for infrastructure improvements would have been unbelievable, as would the costs for venues and security. It took Montreal 30 years to crawl out from the depths of the financial chaos that resulted from the 1976 games. The costs of the 2004 games in Athens undoubtedly helped to push Greece toward the financial ruin that still threatens to destroy the European Union. And no matter how much is spent on security, there's absolutely nothing that could prevent terrorist attacks like those at Munich in 1972 or Atlanta in 1996.
There's been talk of finding one location that will serve as a permanent host (or several sites that would rotate the games). Places like Olympia, Greece (home of the very first Olympics) or Los Angeles with its numerous pre-existing facilities that has also hosted games on numerous occasions and lived to tell a prosperous tale of success. This would probably be the best solution, and it also makes sense in that fewer and fewer countries are bidding to host the games (the 2022 Winter Olympics will be in Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics because there were so few bids).
All of that said, the Olympics is still one of those must-view TV sporting events. So good luck to the people of Rio de Janeiro. Here's hoping for a safe couple of weeks with no controversies and no competitors getting ill from Zika (same for the fans and the media). And good luck to the athletes. No matter how the events end, you are all still the best athletes in the world.