UPDATE: 6/18/13 Now this.
The responsible thing, in fact, would have been to pull out before now.
The Olympics, which were supposed to represent the ideal of pure, individual amateur (For love, not money) athletic achievement, metastasized into a bloated, hyper-nationalist insult to those ideals long ago. In addition…
…The Olympic organization is corrupt, accepting bribes to determine which nations host the games.
…The competitions are corrupt, with banned performance enhancing substances being used widely and with the assistance and knowledge of participating nations, in some cases. At the end of last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued a report calling for Russia to be banned from international athletics at all levels for flagrant doping violations and a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels” within Russian athletics.
Have the Olympics banned Russia? Of course not.
Meanwhile, an IOC investigation revealed that 23 athletes have tested positive in a massive doping scandal that could ban a total of 31 yet-unnamed athletes “from 12 countries and six sports” from participating in the 2016 Olympics.
…The games now have the shadow of terrorism hanging over them.
…Expenditures by hosting nations always divert resources into inefficient and unnecessary projects, as greater national and social priorities suffer in the pursuit of pride and prestige. Following a pattern that we have seen in other countries, some poor Brazilians have lost their homes as part of preparations for the games.
There would be a strong argument to end this expensive and cynical tradition before the Rio Olympics, but this year’s model demands a retreat even if the past games had been paragons of athletic virtue. The government of Brazil is dysfunctional. Its president has been suspended after being impeached and more than half of Brazil’s senate is being investigated for crimes. The Brazilian economy is in a shambles.
Partially as a result of the financial and political mess, the country isn’t ready for the Games, and probably won’t be. The extension for Rio de Janeiro’s Metro Linha 4 that connects the major venues is far behind schedule. Absent a miracle, the essential thoroughfare won’t be completed in time, creating a traffic Armageddon.
There is reason to worry about what has been completed. A 150-foot elevated cycle path section collapsed after it was hit by a wave, killing two cyclists. The 2.4 mile long Tim Maia Cycle Path was supposedly completed in January at a cost of $12.7 million as one of many 2016 Olympics infrastructure projects. But Rio officials refuse to accept that there may be a construction problem. Writes CyclingTips:
Municipal secretary Pedro Paulo Carvalho told O Globo that it was “premature” to say that there was a failure in the path’s construction.However, Brazilian economist Cleber Pereira disputed that, saying it was “absurd” that a newly opened construction project, set upon the ocean, would collapse due to a breaking wave. “Where are the engineers who designed this?” he said. “A work of this size and they didn’t not provide for natural events like crashing waves?”
Good question. And these are the same officials, planners and general whiz-bangs who have to take appropriate measures to protect the athletes and spectators from Zika, which is in full outbreak in Brazil. In the Harvard Public Health Review, University of Ottawa professor of population health Amir Attaran argued that the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil is so dangerous that it is madness to hold the Games there, writing,
But for the Games, would anyone recommend sending an extra half a million visitors into Brazil right now? Of course not: mass migration into the heart of an outbreak is a public health no-brainer. And given the choice between accelerating a dangerous new disease or not—for it is impossible that Games will slow Zika down—the answer should be a no-brainer for the Olympic organizers too. Putting sentimentality aside, clearly the Rio 2016 Games must not proceed.
He and others are being attacked as hysterics and alarmists…which would be more understandable if there weren’t so many other reasons to avoid Rio. The waterways, for example, are contaminated by fecal matter. Now Reuters is reporting that…
“Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant “super bacteria” off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events and in a lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete when the Games start on Aug. 5.The findings from two unpublished academic studies seen by Reuters concern Rio’s most popular spots for tourists and greatly increase the areas known to be infected by the microbes normally found only in hospitals.”
And just when things were going so well!
The United States pulling its athletes out of the Olympics would trigger an international breach with Brazil, cost U.S. corporations millions, and disappoint many Americans, especially Donald Trump supporters, who have a tenuous relationship with reality anyway and would be furious. However, it is a decision that a responsible President would make, and only he can make it, because the U.S. Olympic Committee is hopelessly biased and conflicted.
This is when leadership is essential. Listen to the poignant comments of likely Olympic golfer Stacy Lewis:
“I wouldn’t say I’m a hundred percent going. It’s just so hard. As an athlete how do you pass up the Olympics? It’s unfortunate that we’re the ones that have to make a decision. You’d almost like to see a governing body or somebody like that kind of put their foot down and say, no, we’re not going. But there’s too much money in it, I don’t think that will ever happen….”
It needs to happen. Let’s see if Barack Obama has the guts and integrity to take the decision out of the hands of the athletes themselves, and do the responsible, safe and courageous thing: back out of the 2016 Rio Olympics.