I love the Olympics. I love the world coming together for friendly competition. I love the idea of turning off the Trump-Clinton show for two weeks to watch, uh, anything else. (Bring on the archery!) I love that this year is the first time the Games will be played in South America; it’s long overdue. I love that Rio is only two time zones before New York, meaning the games will be and feel more “live” than they often do for us Americans.
However, ever since Vancouver hosted an elegant, wonderful Winter Games back in 2010, the Olympics have turned out to be less of a blessing and more of a curse. Britain rocked the 2012 Summer Games, but then Britain got rocked by Brexit and is looking at losing its status as the best country of its size. Russia unveiled a happy Olympics for the 2014 Winter Games, only to unveil half of its Olympic athletes as dope users. And now, Brazil…oh, Brazil.
The Top 6 Storylines and How You Should React:
Where’s the President? The former President, who everyone calls Lulu, landed the Games 7 years ago and made a show of handing them to his hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff. But it turns out she’s been suspended by Parliament, pending the outcome of an impeachment trial. The suspenders are themselves suspected of graft and corruption, and now they’ve also been criticized for appointing an all-male interim panel to run the country. So instead of a victory lap, or the sort of magisterial view of the Olympics that David Cameron enjoyed four years ago, Rousseff must hang her head in ignominy…or must she? Though Brazil has reported that neither Lulu nor Rousseff will attend the opening ceremonies, we may yet see Dilma skulking around events, if only NBC can be smart enough to show her.
Your reaction (Fred Flintstone voice): Dillllmaaaaaa!
Welcome to Hell? Rio is in the throes of a somewhat severe economic crisis, including Standard and Poor reducing Brazil’s “investment grade” to junk. One thing this means is that cops and firefighters apparently aren’t being paid, or weren’t, until Brazil approved an $850million emergency-funds package for them. It’s not terrific to think that Olympic revelers are likelier to be mugged (the financial crisis isn’t helping), or even attacked by terrorists. ISIS has apparently been openly recruiting Portugese translators and encouraging “lone wolf” attacks in Rio. Lovely, right?
Your reaction: #cyberRichardJewell. We all recall Jewell’s heroic efforts 20 years ago to clear the Olympic grounds after he found a bomb, right? So now we’ll all be watching the video cameras and tweeting and cyber-freaking if we see something suspicious.
Zika and Dengue? Sadly that is NOT the name of a 80s-music cover duo that mostly plays Vegas. No, Rio faces outbreaks of both Zika virus and dengue fever. Is it good news that they’re carried by the same mosquito? Not really. Pregnant women have been warned to stay away. South Korea and a few other countries have supposedly issued Zika-proof or Zika-resistant clothing. But a lot of athletes have already pulled out, citing fears. Tennis and golf were particularly hard hit; and this is golf’s first appearance in the Olympics in 112 years! But yeah, maybe the Yale School of Public Health wasn’t all that reassuring when it predicted that somewhere between 3 and 37 of the estimated 500,000 Olympic visitors would bring Zika back to their home countries. What a lucky lottery to win on social media!
Your reaction: kill them all! Or at least, point them to this.
That’s quite the active twitter feed, making #sochiproblems look like a piece of piroshki. After the government forced 600 people out of their favelas to clear the way for Olympic expansion, it seems that the housing is a bit less than the athletes had hoped for: clogged toilets, exposed wires, minor fires and thefts, and other issues as documented on the feed. Add to that the fact that the media village is built on a mass grave for African slaves, and half the events are looking at likely half-empty stadiums.
Your reaction: Rio’s got 99 problems but a beach ain’t one!
What does “Rio” mean in English?
River. River means water. But the water around Rio barely deserves the name. Back in September 13 U.S. rowers got sick from water in a Rio lagoon. A study commissioned by the Associated Press found that, at concentrations measured last year, “swimmers and athletes who ingest just three teaspoons of water are almost certain to be infected with viruses that can cause stomach and respiratory illnesses and more rarely heart and brain inflammation.” “Don’t put your head underwater,” Dr. Valerie Harwood, chair of the department of integrative biology at the University of South Florida, advised visitors. Five Olympic events will be held in Rio’s polluted waterways, including marathon swimming. And a sixth, sailing, will be held in Guanabara Bay, a sinkhole that the organizers gave up on cleaning. Also, the Games promised to plant 24 million trees and as of this week have planted 5.5 million.
Your reaction: Rio is still a great Duran Duran song.
Once the games start, you’ll forget all this, right? You’ll thrill to Michael Phelps carrying the American flag into the stadium. You’ll cheer on Kerry Walsh Jennings and the rest of the women’s beach volleyball team. You’re all about Gabby Douglas and the gymnastics squad. You know enough to cheer for our women’s soccer team and men’s basketball team with just a soupcon of aw-shucks-ness because hey, we’re the overwhelming favorites. You may even raise a glass to Usain Bolt. But then, there’s always that nagging sense that NBC could be doing a lot better. Everything is broadcast from that weird hermetically sealed studio, the human-interest stories are as maddeningly pre-packaged as the last DVD you bought, and you can’t help but think the more interesting events are offscreen, and yeah, you use internet feeds, but that doesn’t excuse NBC from doing better.
Your reaction: making Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” NBC jokes to yourself.