By now, the headlines predicting how big of a shitshow the Rio games will be are outpacing the headlines about the athletes and competition. More than any previous Games, light is being shed on how dire the conditions are in Rio and the corruption that plagues the International Olympic Committee. But how bad is it really? Let’s explore shall we?
The situation with the IOC is so dire that for the first time in the show's history, HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel spent an entire program last week on a single subject: the Olympics and the IOC. The details that were uncovered by their team of reporters is shocking and makes it easy to understand the steep cost that comes with hosting an Olympic Games. IOC President Thomas Bach vowed that the Olympics would transform Rio into a better place, but the polar opposite has occurred. The reporting of Real Sports uncovered plethora of issues that are plaguing Rio as the Olympics draw near.
La Villa Atrazina, a massive favela (or ghetto), was essentially bulldozed to make way for Olympic Park. While some took buyouts, residents who didn't were met violently by police as footage obtained by Real Sports showed. Think about how San Francisco cleared out the homeless from the city when the Super Bowl came to town last year, but on a much more massive scale.
Rio committed to spending about $15 billion on the Olympics in order to get the bid, about $9 billion more than any other city that put in a bid. But unfortunately, this coincided with a busting Brazilian oil boom and massive political corruption, meaning the strain was put on the people of the city. Social and medical services have been slashed, and Real Sports' footage showed people on hospital beds in hallways, sometimes even on the floor rather than in their own rooms.
According to the New York Times, the waterways in Rio are much more contaminated than previously reported, a frightening thought when it was previously estimated to be “up to 1.7 million times more hazardous than the waters on a southern California beach”. It's so disgusting and unsanitary that athletes are being told to “keep [their] mouths closed” when competing in contaminated waters. Sounds great right?
How do things like this happen? A reasonable question, but unfortunately not an uncommon one these days. One would have to take a look at the corruption and mismanagement that has plagued the IOC for decades in order to get an idea.
As crazy as it may seem, the IOC makes FIFA look like a church and they’ve employed a number of members that are convicted criminals. Scandals have become as commonplace as regular business. Even as recently as the 2002 Winter Olympics, where members of the IOC solicited a broad variety of gifts in exchange for their vote, impropriety continues to plague the site selection process. It’s also interesting to note that the revenue that comes from the Olympics is distributed to the host city at the IOC's discretion, and it's been clear that they pocket a majority of that revenue. The demands the IOC places on a city that puts in a bid to host the Olympics are obscene: ranging from separate entrances at the airport for IOC members to chauffeured cars like they had in Beijing for the 2006 Summer Olympics.
So while the Olympic Committee has long said they're about human rights and making the world a better place, the actions of the IOC have suggested otherwise. That athletes around the world and residents of host cities are caught in the crosshairs of this dynamic is a shame, and it's a situation that needs fixing. WIth Rio now a week away and kicking off whether they are ready or not, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be.