Hospital wards. Security breaches. Cops and robbers. Sum of all fears. International intrigue.
It sounds like a new installment of Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” movie franchise, doesn’t it?
Well, not quite … this match is vastly different from the one that sparked the Cruise Fuse on the silver screen. This match on fire is linked to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Destination: Rio de Janeiro.
The International Olympics Committee thought it was doing South America a favor by granting the continent its first Summer Games. Bad move. World developments affecting the Olympics tell us so.
Let us count the ways of a dystopian Olympics of epic proportions. Start with health:
The Zika virus has been a nightmare, spawned by a six-legged pest in Brazil. The mosquito-transmitted infection was discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947, and is common in Africa and parts of Asia. It began to spread to the western hemisphere in mid-year of 2015, with outbreaks in Brazil. An infection is especially troublesome to pregnant women because it can cause microcephaly in babies, in which their heads are smaller than normal and deformed, as well as blindness and deafness.
Savannah Guthrie, who is pregnant and is an anchorwoman for the morning “Today” show on NBC, announced in June that she would not cover the Summer Olympics because of concerns regarding the virus. And NBC, as usual, is the host network for the Summer Games.
Several of the world’s top golfers, including Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, have withdrawn because of fears related to the Zika virus.
Tennis star Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic also opted out. Speaking to media outlets at the Citi Open in Washington on July 19, Berdych explained his decision to avoid Rio as such: “I’m going to play two, three, four years, and then the rest of my life will be another 60 years, something like that. If something happens that makes that not the way you want it, because of one week or one tournament, you might have a sad life. No, I don’t think so; I don’t want to take that risk, even if the risks are possibly small or whatever.”
The over-budgeted, $20 billion Brazilian Boondoggle should be a lesson to us all:
The IOC should either (A) choose four or five sophisticated cities to host the Olympics on a rotating basis, or (B) just showcase the Games in its birthplace, Greece, and have regular infrastructure and common-sense upkeep improvements subsidized by the IOC.
While overzealous and distracted Pokemon video-game enthusiasts in the United States are falling off California cliffs, ramming into police cars while driving and playing, crashing into trees that the Incredible Hulk couldn’t move, the situation always could be worse. They could be in Brazil, especially Rio de Janeiro, where Olympics preparation could use the likes of Hercules and Zeus to right the ship and make opening deadline.
Rio, which beat out Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo for the right to host the Games, is facing construction issues on Olympics venues. Will all of the structural projects be ready by the first Friday in August? Time will tell.
Rio de Janeiro also is known for major traffic congestion; that’s why state officials ordered schools closed during the Games. That means students will have to pay the price while athletes compete for glory.
In some of the dirtiest water in the world. Every sordid object and substance from dead bodies to raw sewage has been seen in the Rio waters. That means Brazil’s lack of water management surely will affect those competitors in rowing, canoeing, kayaking, etc.
The IOC should be ashamed of itself for awarding the Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro. One commenter on social media about summed up the Brazilian futility recently, posting, “Any country where people regularly eat from dumpsters and landfills should re-evaluate their priorities.”
What about the guns and thieves and fear?
In June, two members of the Australian Paralympic sailing squad were robbed of their bicycles at gunpoint, prompting Australia’s exasperated Olympic team leader to plead with Brazilian law-enforcement authorities to implement Olympic-scale security “before an athlete gets hurt.” The Australian Olympic Committee also is boycotting Rio’s Athletes Village, claiming the housing quarters are unsafe and unsanitary and unready.
New Zealand’s Jason Lee, a jiu-jitsu athlete living in Rio de Janeiro, was kidnapped on July 23 and forced to withdraw money from an ATM at gunpoint.
And you know something is awry when Rivaldo, one of Brazil’s own soccer greats, posted an intriguing summation on Instagram: “Things are getting uglier here every day. I advise everyone with plans to visit Brazil for the Olympics in Rio to stay home. You’ll be putting your life at risk here. This is without even speaking about the state of public hospitals and all the Brazilian political mess. Only God can change the situation in our Brazil.”
God is a much Higher Order than Hercules or Zeus.
Brazil may need all three to prevent an armageddon — a terrorist attack. In mid-July, Brazilian law enforcement agencies arrested at least 10 members of an Islamist extremist group scattered in nine states called the Defenders of Sharia; they reportedly were an “amateur cell’ plotting to wage attacks at the Rio Olympics.
Does Brazil have the security forces to ensure safe passage for athletes and spectators alike? We know what Rivaldo thinks about the safety issue.
Something tells me the Olympics won’t resurface in South America again. And if that part of the globe cannot handle the Games because of a lack of infrastructure and foresight, then any city in Africa, from Cairo to Casablanca to Capetown, can forget about it, too.
As the title of the 1980s comedic movie starring Michael Caine so aptly stated, “Blame It on Rio.”