Is Rio ready for the Games? Such a question looks bizarre when just two days remain for the start of the greatest sporting spectacle on earth-the Olympics-all set to roll into history at one of the prettiest cities in the world boasting of the finest beaches in Copacabana.

Even as the athletes arrive there are too many negative reports that are emanating from the city, which is the first South American venue of the Olympics launched by the immortal Frenchman Baron Pierre Coubertin in 1896 at Athens.

The hiccups appear to come from every area from the venues to the Olympic Village where the athletes are cataloguing complaints of inadequacy of facilities. Several quarters in the Olympic Village reported to be incomplete and being given the final touches even after the competitors had checked in.

Thomas Bach, the helmsman of the current Olympic Movement and the International Olympic Committee has endeavored to tone down harsh words by stating that what was happening was nothing new and had been seen in other Olympics as well before the inauguration.

He was more than right that barring the 2008 Games in Beijing (where too the issue of smog was raised by several countries), which was ready with everything one year before the opening bell to the sounded, the other venues lacked a detail or two before the opening ceremony.

This has been happening since the 1976 Games at Montreal where many felt some of the stadiums were incomplete even after the events had begun.

In 2004 at Athens the IOC had genuinely feared whether the Games could be conducted at all in view of the slow and tardy progress in construction of the infrastructure by the Greek Olympics Organization Committee whose leader was be changed more than three times.

These examples are no justification for the glitches that we get to hear from Rio. The reasons are quite a few but the major factor seems to be political and largely economical. The economic slowdown has definitely is mirroring its ramification as does the political upheaval the country is facing on many fronts.

There are definite apprehensions whether the city, nay, the whole nation will be able to cope up with the extravaganza it has undertaken with such enthusiasm when it was chosen as the venue. Added to these concerns are the security aspects and the fear of over “lone wolf” attacks at competitive venues. It is a nerve-wracking time for the Olympic Committee as also to the security establishments across the country.

Since the day Rio was named as the venue, there were problems for the host. The infrastructure took a heavy financial outgo, which the public resented as being the way for enhancing taxes. Several people have to move away from the city to accommodate the constructions connected with the Games.

It is not that Brazil had not seen such mega events. The country successfully hosted the last World Cup football Championship. More than construction delays, the world feared the Zika virus causing malaria type disease. Several athletes have decided to forego their Olympic appearances in view the Zika threat.

But reports so far are not complimentary to the hosts. About 100 athletes and officials had to be evacuated when a small fire broke out in the Olympic Village. Some members of the Australian were affected by the incident. Even before moving in several Australian competitors stayed in hotels before opting to staying in the Village.

“The stairwells filled with smoke, but the fire was confined to the car park. No one was injured,” said an official from the host Committee. “There’s a lot of rubbish around the place which a lot of countries have been talking about for the last few days, left from contractors, left from workers. There are a lot of smokers. This is my real issue,” she said.

Not everything is in perfect shape even at the venues. The ramp at the Sailing venue was ripped off by bad weather and the high waves that hit the coast last weekend. However, the competitors have been assured that everything will be in order by the time the competitions begin. The bad weather also affected the beach volleyball courts at the Copacabana beach and TV network areas.

What is however disturbing is the growing political disturbances across the country. A mega rally a few days reminded one of the huge protests that erupted across the country days before the opening ceremony at Mexico in 1968.

Amidst all these fears and uncertainties, there is a speck of optimism among many that the Brazilians will go out of the way to give to humanity a memorable Olympics that conquers new frontier excitement and enchantment.



The writer was Associate Editor, Sports, ‘The Hindu’, with which he was employed for 52 years. He has covered several six Olympics, nine Asian Games, eight World Hockey Championships, six Asian championships and virtually all major Olympics sport. He has edited Indian Cricket. His writes for Trinity Mirror and Chennai, fieldhockey.com. He posts his columns at www.facebook.com/subramanyam.thyagarajan.

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