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Thursday, 10 March 2016 11:51

The Olympics: Are They In Trouble?

By | Sports

I don't know if you’ve been following the scuttlebutt of what's going on with the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With about 6 months until the opening of the 2016 Summer Olympics, there are many problems that show no signs of resolution. I have used as a reference some information from an article written by Emmett Knowlton, a writer for the Business Insider. Knowlton also researched some of his information through Will Connors of The Wall Street Journal. 


There is a big political problem in Brazil, one of which is financing and constructing a subway that extends about 10 miles from the Capital of Brasilia. The hope is to have it ready by the opening ceremony. The cost is approximately $247 million U.S. dollars.  Rio’s biggest impediment is that there are the distractions of corruption scandals, and the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. Mind you, this subway is expected to carry some 300,000 people daily from the capital to Olympic Park. This subway is supposed to be finished by July 1. Note that the games begin on August 5, and this extension of the current subway system isn't ready by then, there is no plan B. 


Then there are the mosquito-borne diseases - multiple illnesses are spreading faster than the effort to combat them. As of December 2015, a record number cases, 1.58 million people have come down with dengue fever (a common tropical viral disease with symptoms of high fever, headaches, pain behind the eyes, muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, and mild nose and gum bleeding), and Chikungunya (a virus with symptoms that might include: fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, swelling in the joints, or rash) is spreading as well. 


Most worrisome is the recent rapid-spreading and relatively new virus of Zika. Zika, was a little known disease, even though its been around for about 60 years, and now it is spreading quickly in the Rio de Janerio area. Zika can cause birth defects while mom is pregnant, and more research has discovered that the disease can be sexually transmitted. 


In other recent Olympics there have been budgetary issues.  Obviously, this one is not any different - but to compound Brazil's Olympic budgetary problems, there is a national economic crisis. The monies for the infrastructure costs rose to more than $5.9 billion U.S. dollars. This price tag is 25 percent higher than the original plan.


Also, the poverty level of Brazil is off the charts. According to 2011 statistics, fully 21.4 percent of the population is considered to be "below" the poverty level, with 4.2 percent considered below the "extreme" poverty line. This rate of poverty is in part attributed to the country's economic inequality. In response to the overall economic situation, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are expected to be less lavish than those of London and Beijing Summer Olympics. Rio de Janiero said it would slash expenses by 30 percent, with cutbacks in high-end cuisine for VIPs and a reduction in the number of trained volunteers who would assist visitors. In certain sites they will use temporary tents, in place of durable structures.


By far, the biggest, and most talked about scandal is regarding the two polluted bodies of water (Guanabara Bay and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon), in which athletes will compete. These bodies of water are showing no signs of improvement. Several athletes in the Rio training on these waters in prep for the Games have become ill. One German sailor contracted MRSA. The AP quoted a U.S. expert in waterborne viruses, Kristina Mena, back in December, "The levels of viruses are so high in these Brazilian waters that if we saw those levels in the United States on beaches, officials would likely close those beaches." Connors of The Wall Street Journal said, "Plans for sewage treatment never materialized. Instead the government is using stopgap measures like small 'eco-boats' that move around the bay and collect larger pieces of debris." That certainly won't help clean the water; it's not even a good band aid.


Finally, there's the sale of tickets - which very few Brazilians appear to have any interest in purchasing. This is worrisome to the organizing committee; they are relying on domestic ticket sales to meet 17 percent of its budget needs. But less than half of the 4.5-million domestic-market tickets have been sold. 


The people of the country in general are not in support of the Games. There have been some small protests held, with predicted larger ones to come toward the Opening Ceremony.  This, of course, relates to the economic crisis. Brazilians are growing increasingly fed up with the coming Olympics.  


So the greatest question, comes with the argument: Is it simply never worth hosting the Olympics? These Games are not cost effective in today's international economy.  My wife and I were discussing this issue with my son and our daughter-in-law. My wife Ann thinks the solution that might seem to be more feasible for future Olympics, is maybe only have "one city" be the designated Olympia City, every four years. Say, Athens, Greece!


I think what might be more economically affordable is using a few established venues, lets say: Los Angeles, Athens, Berlin, Sydney, and Beijing. Or a small number of designated international cities to host the Games every four years, in the summer and winter. Costs would just cover updates to the infrastructures and facilities, and a pot of international monies sitting in an account for that purpose. Maybe an international tax, that each participating government/country would pay, all based on population, for financial growth for future Olympic venues.


Let's hope that Rio de Janiero can get its act together, before it gets worse. Maybe there needs to be more outside support and even some intervention with assistance from the international community to continue the progress before August. 


But the Olympic Games are worth saving. It is one of the few times that the world has a healthy and positive interaction between nations competing and demonstrating appreciation for each other, through the exciting scenario of athletic competition. 

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