Like many fans of the Olympics, as well as I’m sure most of the athletes, I was very pleased six years ago when Rio de Janeiro was selected over Chicago and other ho-hum host cities for the 2016 Games. If I were a young healthy athlete, Rio would be a “Duh?” choice for me. Pristine white beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana, lots of girls and boys in bikinis, Brazilian beat music (Jobim comes to mind), tropical climate, picturesque scenery–Perfect!
Unfortunately, my vision of Rio was 50 years old and probably idealized even then. The reality, as shown in the picture is grimmer. Apparently the beaches I referred to are seldom used these days because while the population of the city has grown to 12 million, the water and sewer system has not grown with it. 70% of Rio’s raw sewage is dumped right into Guanabara Bay, the famous one overlooked by the huge statue of Jesus, and the water is hopelessly polluted. Swimming and even boating in it guarantees an infection of some sort, probably several. Yet these waters, in and around Rio are intended as venues for the Games. Brazil has had over six years to figure out an answer to this situation and has apparently done nothing. They intend to hold the boating, long distance swimming, and other water venues in the city’s cesspool. In six years, they could easily have built an artificial lake outside of town or located a clean lake or bay farther up the coast for those venues. Instead, over a billion dollars in Brazilian tax money earmarked to address this very problem, money Brazil can ill afford to waste, has been flushed down a sewer of graft and public corruption.
The major nations on the International Olympic Committee need to step in before it is too late. With the opening ceremony only 12 months away, time is short. This is not simply a few minor inconveniences such as the faulty doors and such in the dorms that occurred during the Sochi Games last year. The health and safety of hundreds of athletes are hanging in the balance here. It’s time for the USA and the other participating nations to step up to the plate and lay it on the line. Make it safe, Brazil, or we will hold those venues somewhere else, where they can be conducted safely. That would be a shame and a waste for all concerned, but maybe the threat, and it needs to be real, will spur the Brazilian authorities into action.