Athletes began to arrive at the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympics which begin on August 5th.
Perhaps the most closely watched event, however, has already begun; and it has no medals. And that is whether Brazil can successfully pull off the Olympics at all.
For a city known for its Carnival the months leading up to the Olympics have been just as crazy and chaotic as the days leading up to Mardi Gras. There’s the Zika virus, the discovery of a “super” bacteria, the impeachment of its President, and Brazil’s worst recession in 100 years. And that’s just a partial list.
And then, of course, there’s the construction.
Cities bidding to host the Olympics often cite revenue from tourism and long-term capital improvements which will benefit its populace long after the games have ended as economic justification for hosting the Olympics. However, the cost to host the Olympics is often underestimated and Rio is no exception, running an estimated $6 billion over budget.
But costs are only one side of the equation. The Olympics do, after all, also generate revenue; and substantial amounts at that. However, the likelihood you’ll make a profit are against you at 3:1 odds. Since 1984, only 8 out of 24 hosting cities saw a net profit from the Olympics. And Rio de Janeiro doesn’t look like it’s going to beat the odds, with one economist projecting that the Rio games will garner at most just $4.5 billion in revenues.
The 2016 Summer Olympics will take place at 34 venues located in four “clusters”: Barra, Copacabana, Deodoro and Maracana. Of these venues, 18 are existing, nine are new, and seven are temporary. In addition to the venues, Rio has upgraded its bus system and expanded its subway lines to connect athletes and spectators to each of the clusters.
However, the New York Times, in an article earlier this month entitled Brazil’s Olympic Catastrophe, questioned whether some of the venues would be ready in time for the Olympics, stating that “[t]he city is a huge construction site. Bricks and pipes are piled everywhere. . . [with] half-built grandstands abandoned in the middle of a Friday afternoon.” Indeed the city’s expanded subway is scheduled to open just four days before the Olympics.
The Australian contingent which was set to move into Olympic Village on Sunday said that the village was “not safe or ready” following a “stress test” where faucets and toilets were simultaneously turned on to mimic full use. “The system failed. Water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was ‘shorting’ in the electrical wiring,” said Australian Team Chef de Mission, Kitty Chiller.
In response, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes offered to put a kangaroo in front of their building to make them feel more at home. The Australians weren’t amused.
As long as we’re ribbing each other perhaps the Aussies can share some photos like we saw on Twitter during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Despite all the problems though if the 2016 Summer Olympics are like the Olympics of the past they will, somehow, go on.