All eyes are on Rio de Janeiro as the city is set to host the Olympics on Friday. This will be the first South American city in history to host the Summer Olympics and the Brazilian government has gone to its greatest lengths not to disappoint the world that will be watching. However, as controversies continually mount before the Games are to begin, many have openly wondered if the Latin American nation was ever capable of taking on such an endeavor.
The International Olympic Committee chose Rio in 2009, but causes for concern began not long after. In 2012, the COO of the Rio Olympic Committee was fired not long after landing the gig - and this was just months after the CCO abruptly resigned. Administrative issues have dogged Rio ever since.
Then came time for Brazil to host the World Cup in 2014. In what people could have interpreted as a precursor for the Olympic disaster to come, Brazil came short in many development projects, with numerous World Cup-related facilities failing to be completed in time – some projects even being abandoned altogether. After dealing with the Brazilian government, FIFA vowed to redo their agreement process with host countries moving forward.
As the Olympic date came closer, and organizational issues continued, other headaches came to fruition.
Demonstrations over Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff had been taking place for well over a year, but the political turmoil intensified remarkably after the Brazilian Speaker announced a vote on impeachment. After countless protests and the governing coalition breaking apart, the Brazilian Senate elected to temporarily oust President Dilma and try her for accounting manipulation (the trial and likely permanent removal of Rousseff currently happening).
Security threats have become a tremendous concern in Brazil as robberies and other crimes continue to make headlines. Australia has demanded more security after one of their paralympians was robbed at gunpoint. New Zealand athlete Jason Lee says he was robbed by men in, get this… police uniforms. Brazil has been propping up law enforcement and clamping down on corruption to stem the number of robberies.
All of these issues were enough to give the International Olympic Committee night terrors, but then came the icing on the cake…Zika.
The first known outbreak of the virus in South America occurred in 2014 around northeastern Brazil, and by 2016 the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Numerous athletes have decided to skip the games due to health scares. Some are attending with extreme preparations in mind – such as special nets to sleep in at night. South Korea invented Zika-proof uniforms for their athletes.
Are all of these problems just too much for this emerging third world country to bear? There are a few promising signs the Games may run with only small hiccups.
Interim president Michel Temer has been keeping Brazilian markets afloat and experts have been impressed with his leadership – dismissing worries of political instability in the country. Brazilian police have (albeit belatedly) been cracking down on crime and controlling their shanty towns. As for Zika, experts have assessed the hazards and concluded the risk of the virus spreading as low.
Also, after ticket sales were lagging for quite some time, last minute purchases have been racketing up. This may stem the fear of vast swathes of empty seats. Spectators who have chosen to attend will be treated to a record number of participating countries in a record setting number of sports this year.
Rio will have to prove itself to the international community that it can handle the Olympic Games given all of their prior missteps. We won’t know how the city will perform under such circumstances until the after the Opening Ceremony. One thing is for certain... the world will be watching.