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. This match is linked to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Destination: Rio de Janeiro.
The International Olympic 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. 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 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, announced that she would not cover the games for NBC’s “Today” show because of concerns regarding the virus. Several of the world’s top golfers also have withdrawn because of fears related to the Zika virus.
The overbudgeted, $20 billion Brazilian boondoggle should be a lesson to us all: The IOC should either choose four or five sophisticated cities to host the Olympics on a rotating basis, or just showcase the games in its birthplace, Greece, and have regular infrastructure and common-sense upkeep improvements subsidized by the IOC.
While distracted Pokemon video-game enthusiasts in the United States are falling off cliffs, the situation always could be worse. They could be in Rio, where Olympics preparation could use the likes of Hercules and Zeus to right the ship.
Rio de Janeiro, which beat out Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo for the right to host the games, 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, sailing, etc.
The IOC should be ashamed of itself for awarding the Summer Games to Rio.
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, unsanitary and unready. New Zealand’s Jason Lee, a jiujitsu athlete, was kidnapped 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, posts this 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 called the Defenders of Sharia; they reportedly were an “amateur cell” plotting to wage attacks at the Olympics. Does Brazil have the security forces to ensure safe passage for athletes and spectators?
Something tells me the Olympics won’t resurface in South America again. And if that part of the globe can’t handle the games because of a lack of infrastructure and foresight, then any city in Africa can forget about it. As the title of the 1980s movie starring Michael Caine so aptly stated, “Blame It on Rio.”
Gregory Clay is a Washington columnist and a former editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.