The challenges of the Rio Olympics 2016

2016_Summer_Olympics_logo.svgWe are just a few weeks away from the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and there are numerous challenges still facing the host nation.
Sport authorities in Brazil however remain confident that the Games would be a resounding success. The newly appointed Sports Minister has shown tremendous confidence even though he is the third person to have been appointed to the post since the Games were won some time ago.
At the Olympic fraternity level the IOC has had someone in Rio for some time working with the organising committee to facilitate appropriate progress.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) have all come out in support of the Brazilian National Olympic Committee, host to the first edition of the Olympic Games to be held in South America.
NOCs have been urged to participate to the full to ensure that the Games are indeed a success.
There is no doubt that these are testing times of the Games.
What then are some of the major challenges faced by the organisers?
Brazilian economy
Perhaps the single most important challenge has been the rapid-fire decline of the Brazilian economy.
Once the most progressive economy in South America Brazil has literally taken a nosedive with major problems emerging almost daily in its wake.
High rates of inflation have eaten away at the gains of the past several years, creating havoc with regard to employment, wages and salaries.
The government has found it necessary to be frugal in its expenditure on sports infrastructure related to the Games. Budget cuts have taken place.
While Brazilians love sport, especially football, it was clear that the FIFA World Cup suffered from the economic decline, which placed some tickets beyond the reach of the average sports fan.
The hope is that the ticket prices for the Olympics may not be deemed too high for the average Brazilian and the enthusiasts would readily support and attend the Games.
A second major factor that has been impacting the Games is the unfolding saga of corruption in Brazil. The Petrobras investigation has already ensnared several high-ranking officials and the investigation now threatens to go after the former Brazilian President, once the most popular politician in the country, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Attorney General, Rodrigo Janot, has accused Lula of having played a major role in the corruption scandal that has engulfed Petrobras, and has asked the Supreme Court to authorise an investigation against him for alleged corruption.
Reports seem to indicate that this particular corruption scandal runs very deep and many more may be investigated.
Rousseff’s decision to appoint Lula as her Chief of Staff, following the accusations of the Attorney General, certainly did not win her many friends and may well have hastened the move to call for her impeachment. Some critics saw her decision as a means of keeping Lula from being charged for corruption of his involvement in it.
Ironically, it was under the leadership of Lula da Silva that Rio de Janeiro, won the rights to host the Summer Olympics of 2016.
The depth of corruption in Brazil and the startling revelations that seem to grow larger with each passing day has not allowed the populace to focus on the Games as many of the organisers would have wished.
Brazilian politics has been focused less on the pending Games and more on the call for the impeachment of the president, Dilma Rousseff. Supporters of the president took to the streets in her defence while those who favour her impeachment have also been bringing their supporters on the street. The constant street protestations have not done much to create the kind of environment for a successful edition of the Olympic Games.
Now that the vote for Rousseff’s impeachment has been completed and she is on a compulsory 180 leave of absence until the process is over, everyone is hoping for calm, especially since she would be out of office during the Games.
However, Rousseff has pledged to fight on to clear her name. Precisely what this fight would entail remains uncertain.
Olympic officials are hopeful that whatever form the fight may take it does not interrupt the Games in any way.
There is also the matter of the doping scandals and Russia, in particular. Initially the focus was on the actions of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) relative to the change of widespread and possible State-sponsored doping in the sport of athletics. However, the recent accusations of doping during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, raises fresh concerns that leave many quite bothered.
Even as the world waits on the final decision of the IAAF, many wonder about the impact of the latest accusations of doping by Russian athletes.
A major bother of course is whether Russia would be prevented from participating in any sport at the Rio Olympics. The concern here is should Russian athletes be prevented from participating in any sport how would the Russian government react?
Would the Russian leadership seek to boycott the Games?
If the Russians were to boycott the Games would the leadership seek to invite allies to do likewise?
No one wishes to see a return to the period 1976 through to 1984 when each edition of the Summer Olympics suffered from boycotts.
Zika virus
The outbreak of the zika virus in Brazil has been in the headlines for the past several months and some of the information being circulated is scary, especially for women.
In its usual fashion the media have gone after sensationalism and so the zika virus is now more talked about that any other illness. The end result is that an increasing number of potential Games enthusiasts are fearful of going to Rio in a few weeks time.
For its part the Brazilian government has taken the zika outbreak seriously enough to commit significant human and financial resources to rid the society of this problem.
Combatting the challenges
The Brazilian Olympic authorities have been working diligently at getting the word out that the Games are on and that nothing is being speared to ensure their success. They have strong media campaigns aimed at breaking through the clutter of negatives that have emerged over the past several months.
While it is true that some problems have emerged during test events for the Games, the organisers have been quick to point out that this is precisely why they are called test events, to identify any potential deficiencies so that they can be corrected prior to the start of the Games.
The entire Olympic fraternity in the Americas, all members of PASO, have joined in the appeal to help realise a most successful edition in 2016, especially since this is the first time that they are being held in Latin America.
In the past, only the World Wars have been responsible for the cancellation of the Olympic Games. They have great appeal amongst the global sports community and beyond.
The hope is that the current political administration would seek to quell all open conflict and present a more stable political situation to the world. There is little that can be done about Brazil’s economic reality.
The IOC has, over the past several editions of the Games, worked with the United Nations to invoke the traditional Olympic Truce. The Games in Brazil are no exception.
Everyone in sport is desirous of seeing the Olympic Truce rendered effective in Brazil throughout the Games.
Caribbean countries are anxious to lend their support to their Brazilian counterparts and share the experience of an historic sporting spectacle in their own backyard.