Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Rio Olympics Make Sense Because. . .

It's good to have the Olympics somewhere other than the First World -- Western Europe, the U.S. or Japan.  It's good to have the Olympics in one of the top ten most populated countries in the world.  The climate could be much better than Qatar's for the World Cup in six years.  Brazil's economy was once a raging tiger not so many years ago; now it is a pussycat in need of a rescue.

Its economy is a mess.  At the Confederations Cup two years ago there were massive protests complaining that a country in need of some basics was building so many stadiums for that tournament and the World Cup.  Yes, the World Cup was a success, at least through the roving eyes back in the U.S.  The stadiums looked great, the weather was tolerable, the broadcast crew the best thing since the days of ABC's Wide World of Sports, and the mural that was being painted was sublime. 

What we saw was the veneer, though.  Two years ago there were protests.  Last year there was a façade.  This year the country is like the guy in the cartoon who fell into the shopping cart, got pushed, and now the shopping cart is running at Indy 500 speeds on a downhill slope toward a cliff.  The president of the country will be fired.  And then what?

Atop that, well-identified pollution problems plague the waters were rowing and sailing will be held.  Now there's the presence of the Zika virus.  Brazil's problems kind of remind me of the story behind Rasputin's death.  He was poisoned, clubbed, stabbed, shot and then thrown into the river.  When found, the cause of death was drowning.  The good news in that parable is that Rasputin was stubborn enough to hang in there.  The bad news was that he was so vilified and of such character that many wanted him dead.  Brazil, no doubt, will reveal national pride, but it has so many maladies it will be a wonder if they pull off the Olympics without a hitch, with no athletes getting sick, and without further hurting their economy. 

If you read this you like sports, but we have to ask ourselves periodically how much we emphasize sports over solving much more important problems, like hunger, human trafficking, global warming and pollution.  Building stadiums where people need basic structure or building a $62.5 million high school football stadium in a state with a lot of poor people just doesn't make a lot of sense.  There are times -- and places -- for competitions and for celebrations. 

It just doesn't seem that Rio in 2016 should be one of them or will be one of them.

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