The 2016 Rio Olympics: a disaster in the making

 

As a member of a family of avid Olympics watchers, when I first heard that the 2016 Summer Olympics would be held in Rio de Janeiro, I was a bit underwhelmed.  After all, the announcement came after the extravagant 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Rio is no Beijing.  I wondered about how the deathly summer heat of Brazil would impact the athletes, but these paled in the face of the issues that the Rio Olympics now face.

Brazil is currently in the midst of political turmoil, a state very different from the one that won the Olympic bid back in 2009.  Its president, Dilma Roussef, stepped down recently while her impeachment process takes place on charges of budget manipulation.  Her vice-president, Michel Temer, is not a well-loved public figure either.  The Brazilian government is rampant with corruption and chaos, in which many top members of Brazil’s congress are facing corruption charges.

Aside from political turbulence, Brazil’s economy has slowed considerably due to an increased spending deficit.  Brazil is currently in a deep economic crisis, and the political situation puts the government in no position to help revive the failing economy.  Simply put, Brazil is president-less and broke, and is in no state to hold such a large-scale international event as the Olympics.  Such turmoil could endanger both the athletes and spectators.

Amidst all of this mess, Brazil also faces the Zika epidemic, and having such a large amount of people coming in and out of the country could very well lead to the spread of the epidemic.  It is neither safe for the athletes nor the spectators to visit the country when it is facing a health crisis.  WHO reports that it is safe for the Olympics to continue, but the high number of reported Zika infections in Rio, 26,000, is still alarming to many health experts (Washington Post).

At this point, postponing the 2016 Summer Olympics is not enough.  Brazil cannot solve its problems in a few months’ time and then go on to hold one of the biggest sporting events in the world.  It just simply isn’t feasible.  Granted, they have spent years building venues for this event, but in consideration of the health and safety of the athletes and visitors, the 2016 Olympics should not be held in Rio.  The money the country has spent so far on the game venues could be redirected to other sources to help Brazil return to stability.

It seems like a waste of the infrastructure Brazil has invested in for the games, but these could be put to future use after Brazil returns to a more secure and stable state.  Instead, the upcoming Olympics could be held at a former Olympic venue—many of these are still in active use today and could be refurbished for the 2016 games.  Obviously, doing so would be a great challenge given the time constraints, but it would keep those participating in and watching the Olympics safe.  The security of athletes and spectators should be the number one priority, and keeping the Olympics in Rio, where the political climate is unstable and the Zika virus is running rampant, is no way to protect anyone’s wellbeing.

 

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