Written by Carley Thomas
Edited by Genevieve Gordon
27th July 2016
Sewage problems, Zika virus, pollution, and safety concerns, are just some of the problem plaguing Rio before the Olympics begin. Rio has been faced with these problems for several months but do not seem to be doing a good job to fix them. For instance, water quality is becoming a major concern as raw sewage and waste have been found in the water, such as Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where rowing, sprint canoe and kayak events will be held. Even the Olympic Village complex, where the athletes will be staying during the games, is currently uninhabitable because of blocked toilets.
The $1.5bn 31-building village has tennis courts, football pitches, seven swimming pools and will house 18,000 athletes and is currently not up to international standard. Australia is even refusing to move their athletes to the village because of their concerns about the state of their accommodation. Problems include “blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring”, according to team boss Kitty Chiller. In addition, the head of Australia’s Olympic delegation, said extra maintenance staff and more than 1,000 cleaners have been engaged to fix the problems but the faults, particularly the plumbing issues, have not been resolved. To top it off, the Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes responded to Australian criticism by saying the Village is “more beautiful” than Sydney for the 2000 Games. Conjecture like this does nothing to ease the critics.
Other countries are not happy either, as New Zealand team boss, Rob Waddell, said he was “disappointed” the Village was not ready (which has been discussed recently in an article https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jul/25/rio-2016-olympic-officials-athletes-village-unfinished), and Italy’s Carlo Mornati said his team were hiring laborers, electricians, plumbers, and bricklayers to bring the apartment up to “normal conditions.”
However, other countries seem to be confident about the housing as the British team, who have had staff in place for several days, has stated “We are confident that our accommodation is ready to receive athletes and will be to the highest standards within the village.” And the US Olympic Committee said there were “minor issues,” but that it was no different to “every Games.”
Even though the countries seem to be split on the housing issues, Rio is still facing other important issues such as the Zika virus. There is a major concern about contracting the Zika virus during the games that some Olympians have even withdrawn from the games. For instance, cyclist Tejay van Garderen let go of his Olympic dreams over concerns about the harm it might do to his pregnant wife if he contracted Zika. In addition, PGA Tour’s top performers announced they’re withdrawing from competition, including Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, even though this is the first time golf will be played at the Olympics since 1904 in St. Louis.
Nonetheless, it is said that many Olympic athletes and visitors will have little exposure to the virus as they will be staying in air conditioned hotels and spending time in air conditioned venues. They will also have minimal contact with dwellings without screens and to standing water where Zika can thrive. Vistors are told they can protect themselves by using repellents and protective clothing.
In addition, the South Korean team has even issued “Zika-proof” uniforms to its athletes, and several athletes such as tennis star Serena Williams and U.S soccer goalie Hope Solo will play but “stay safe.” It is also worth remembering the scare may be magnified a bit, every Olympic cycle is dogged by negative media – remember London 2012? According to the World Health Organization, the seasonal shift has greatly lowered the number of Zika cases in Brazil which can only be positive press for the IOC’s decision to hold to the Games in Rio.
Several safety issues are currently concerning Rio stakeholders too. For instance, civil police workers, who have their wages in peril, have been greeting visitors at the airport with banners saying “Welcome to Hell” and warning people that they will not be safe in the city. There has been body parts washing up on Copacabana Beach, where volleyball matches will be held, and incessant muggings seem to suggest a disaster waiting to happen. A number of papers have carried stories relating to the dangers of the favelas and their proximity to the Olympic and Paralympic sites.
Even with all these problems going on, it is important to remember the Games have never been perfect and have survived much in their long history. From displays of white supremacy at Hitler’s Olympics in Berlin in 1936 to the stray dogs plaguing Sochi in 2014, the Olympics have had a long and turbulent issues, but have always risen from their problems and have move forward & been hailed as a great success time and again.
NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus has even stated, “As it relates to the issues surrounding the Olympic Games, that’s not new. Every Olympic Games, whether the last few, or years back, have always had issues. … All of those things have always worked themselves through. Some have been impactful in small ways, many have not.” And that “While there are still some things that they need to finish out and we as a broadcast network need to finish that preparation, we and the city are both ready. This will be the biggest media event in history.”
To conclude, there are many doubts and concerns about the games in Rio, but I think the Olympics will work through the hardships and triumph as they always have and lead a successful summer games.
The Olympics – August 5-21 2016
The Paralympics – September 7-18 2016