Rio Olympics Problems

By Michael Hogan | Askmen | August 3, 2016

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad finally get underway on Friday, taking over where London left off in the heady summer of 2012. The 17-day feast of sport in Rio de Janeiro will hopefully come good but the build-up's been dogged by disaster and "Brazil nuts" tabloid headlines. Here's the unlucky 13 biggest scares…

Unfinished Venues

The build-up to Rio 2016 has been beset by construction worries and terrifying reports from the frontline. Dozens of sporting stadia and infrastructure works have been delayed by creaking finances and organisational problems. The city has been engulfed in a desperate last-minute building and repair operation of eyesore venues. Competitors arriving at the Athletes' Village described it as "uninhabitable," with exposed wires, blocked toilets, water running down the walls and rooms smelling of gas. Last weekend, the main access ramp at sailing venue Marina da Gloria collapsed — which many saw as symbolic of the country's flagging enthusiasm for the Games. Gah.

Nation in Meltdown

Millions of Rio residents live in run-down favelas, so when citizens see £12bn being spent on the Olympics, anger is understandable. Especially when it comes just two years after Brazil hosted the World Cup — an event that saw protestors rioting in the streets and ended in humiliation, with the host nation's 7-1 thrashing by Germany. Meanwhile, the country is in financial crisis, thanks to the biggest recession in a century. Just last month, the Rio state government declared a state of "public calamity" over its finances, forcing an $87m emergency bailout from the government. President Dilma Rousseff was impeached this summer, plunging the political scene into chaos. Thousands of families have lost their homes due to Olympic construction. Many ordinary Brazilians are asking why they're bothering to be hosts. Sheesh.

Opening Ceremony Worries

Friday night's curtain-raising bash in the Maracana Stadium will be "a colourful celebration of Brazil's diverse culture and history." The problem is, its budget has been slashed, so it's costing a tenth of Danny Boyle's triumphant London 2012 equivalent. The fear is that it will be an amateurish flop and get the Games off to a bad start from which they might never recover. Gulp.

Metro Train Panic

Part of Rio's plan for the Games was a new Metro train line linking the hotel zone in Ipanema to the main Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca. Originally supposed to be finished in 2014, it's been plagued by hold-ups. Will it be finished in time? It was a huge scramble but to widespread relief, the Metro was officially opened on Monday — with a mere four days to spare. For the duration of the Games, the shiny new system will exclusively be used by Olympic officials, media and spectators with tickets for the events — but they're pretty crucial people, so pray the trains don't prove unreliable. Leaves on the line? Tut.

Crime Fears

Fears about Rio's extraordinarily high levels of violent crime — it's one of the world's most murderous countries — have also been raised in the run-up. The city tackled this with a police crackdown and accusations of brutality. During the Games, 85,000 soldiers and cops will be on the streets — which might reassure the relatively rich, mainly white visitors shuttling between the heavily patrolled airport, hotels and sport venues, but will leave poor, outlying communities with a worryingly low security presence. There have also been protests about police and fire-fighters going unpaid. Hmm.

Zika Virus

Just two months ago, a professor warned in the Harvard Public Health Review that it was "socially irresponsible" for the Olympics to continue due to the mosquito-borne virus. An estimated 500,000 people will come into the city for the Games and with so much still unknown about Zika, there are fears of a global epidemic. High-profile participants, including LeBron James and our own Rory McIlroy, have withdrawn. It hardly helps that many hospitals have closed due to the financial crisis. Eek.

Polluted Waters

The pollution in Rio's waterways has been a concern ever since an investigation last year found that Olympic athletes would be boating in waters up to 1.7m times more hazardous than the sea off a Southern Californian beach. There's raw sewage in bays, reports of "drug-resistant super-bacteria" in open water and an oil slick at the sailing venue which is turning white boats brown. One biomedical expert has even told warned people travelling to Rio: "Don't put your head under water." Awkz.

Unsold Tickets

Rio's skint residents — along with all these numerous other concerns — are doubtless a factor in the number of unsold tickets still knocking around. Three months ago, fewer than half the tickets had been sold, so the government hatched plans to buy them up and give them away to local schools. A week ago, it had been revealed that there were still almost 2m tickets unsold. There have been five times fewer applications for tickets than there were for London 2012. Oof.

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