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  • Rio Deserves Good Luck: OpEd


    04/27/16

    (ATR) The collapse of a seaside bikeway last week that likely claimed five lives is the latest blot in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

    With 100 days to go til opening ceremony, it’s about time for the luck to change for Rio de Janeiro.

    While every Olympic city has its problems, Rio may be remembered for the range of issues that have plagued the city’s image ever since it was selected seven years ago. Pollution, crime, corruption, inertia and economics are just part of the list of woes the world has heard about Rio since the city was elected by the IOC.

    Both Brazil and the IOC bubbled with optimism in 2009 when the road to Rio began. But the bubbling fizzled with the collapse of a once-booming economy that could no longer deliver the Olympics as promised. Budget cuts and reductions in scope have followed.

    The uprising that could lead to the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is unrelated to the Olympics. But it is yet another distraction for a public already inflamed about widespread corruption involving elected officials and some of Brazil’s leading companies. Instead of fussing over Olympic ticket orders or excitement about the arrival of the Olympic torch Relay, the public is consumed by a different passion. On the plus side for Rio 2016, Olympic projects have escaped the stain of corruption. 

    Typical of these issues, solving them is outside the control of Rio 2016 organizers.

    The Rio Olympics enjoy public support though ticket sales are not robust in Brazil. (ATR)
    Like Zika. As if government turmoil and a crushed economy weren’t enough, the mosquito-borne virus that appears to cause birth defects dealt Rio 2016 a new complication. Eradication and education, as well as the coming of winter, could bring good luck for the Olympics by muting the threat of athletes and spectators staying away.

    But while Zika may not keep athletes from Rio, sport politics could. As it stands now, Russian track and field athletes are barred from Rio as a consequence of the doping scandal in Russian sport. The IAAF will decide in June whether to lift the ban. Keeping it in place may mean good news in the fight against doping. For Rio it will mean a diminished field of competitors. And there are worries Russia could keep all of its Rio team at home if the IAAF ban is not lifted -- potentially more bad luck for these first Games in South America.

    There are things to fix in the organizers' wheelhouse. One is to finish the velodrome, which was not ready for a test event one month ago. Another -- make sure the power stays on at the venues. It failed at the gymnastics test event earlier this month. We hear there is now a scramble to secure a half dozen flooring systems needed for the basketball venues,
    ATR Editor Ed Hula at the golf venue for Rio 2016. (ATR)
    a last-minute crisis that could cost $1.5 million.

    These worrisome gaps in preparations must be fixed for Rio 2016 to avoid bad luck of its own making. These are issues for Rio 2016 and its partners in city, state and federal governments to solve. This is where competency and cooperation meet.

    On this 100 day to go mark, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes unveils the operational plans for the city for the Olympics. Covering transportation, people movement and other aspects of the Games, the City Hall plan is another way to avoid self-inflicted bad luck. The energetic and engaged Paes remains the highest profile politician linked to the Games and the one who has the most at stake. A good Games could help catapult him to the presidency of Brazil.

    Another big thing to get right includes the Olympic Torch Relay, which begins its trek across Brazil next week. The event will be the most intensive and complicated activity organized so far by Rio 2016, and it will be as much of a test as keeping the lights on at the gymnastics arena. The torch relay may be the last opportunity for Rio 2016 to create some boa sorte and goodwill from an Olympics that should be serving up joy to all of Brazil.

    Written by Ed Hula.

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