Opinion Column

Rio Olympics problems no fun and games

By Steve Burgess

The mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Vinicius (yellow) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Tom (blue).
Getty Images

The mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Vinicius (yellow) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Tom (blue). Getty Images

The Rio Olympics are almost upon us. But trouble is bobbing to the surface. For one thing, a body was recently found floating in the bay near the sailing venue. Aside from the general horror of that fact, imagine if one were to float across the finish line in the top three.

It could be a judging nightmare.

On the positive side, so far only one Olympic competitor, New Zealand’s Jason Lee, has been kidnapped at gunpoint. And although terrorism is always a concern, Rio organizers are no doubt confident that any potential terrorists will be defeated by violent crime and/or gastrointestinal illness. There will be plenty of medals up for grabs but the fiercest competition could be for a spot in the bathroom lineup.

The official mascots for the Rio Games are named Vinicious and Tom and not, as you may have assumed, Zikky the Corrupt Mosquito and Gorgo the Toxic Sewage Monster. The Zika virus is scaring many athletes away but they would be wiser to worry about water fairly bubbling with dangerous pathogens and streets plagued with crime.

The Brazilian government is paralyzed by an impeachment crisis and local favela dwellers have been turfed from their homes near venue sites.

As if Rio doesn’t have enough problems on site there is also the controversy over Russian athletes, revealed by an investigation to be the beneficiaries of state-sponsored doping. Yet the Russian team was not banned by the IOC, which could probably use a steroid injection of its own to build up some spinal tissue.

Those of us who were skeptical about the Vancouver 2010 Olympics ultimately had to admit it was a pretty good party and a memorable event. Whether it was money well spent is still a subject of lively political debate, but at least Vancouver proved itself a solidly viable Olympic venue. But the grandiose, illogical, and frequently corrupt nature of the modern Olympic project has rarely been clearer than in Rio (not to mention Sochi, Vladimir Putin’s vanity project that cost an estimated $50 billion). Countries that bid for the Olympics are often like guys who drive Porsches — probably compensating for something. The Rio Olympic Games may yet prove to be a stirring athletic spectacle but that won’t mean they were a good idea.

Steve Burgess is a Vancouver-based writer and author of the memoir Who Killed Mom?