5 Good Reasons Why The 2016 Summer Olympics Shouldn't Happen
The Summer Olympics are coming! We're less than two months away from the opening ceremonies, so I guess it's time to start getting excited about finally having our every-four-years itch for world-class track and gymnastics scratched. Except it's different this time around. At last count, nearly half of all Americans believe the Olympics should be delayed or cancelled altogether. I'm one of those Americans. We talk about all the reasons that going forward with the Summer Games is a mistake on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Jeff May and Caitlin Cutt. It's also what I'm talking about in this column here today. Up first, let's get the most obvious concern out of the way.
The Zika Virus
Remember the statistic I quoted earlier about Americans who believe the Olympics should be cancelled? It was like three sentences ago. Humor me and pretend you read the intro. Anyway, the people questioned in that survey were expressing their concerns about just one issue: the Zika virus.
It's kind of difficult to grasp how much of a problem Zika already is and could be in the future, because it's not one of those Hollywood movie plagues which cause people to bleed from the eyes and discharge their liquefied innards through their already-overworked orifices. In adults, the symptoms are similar to a mild version of dengue fever, if there are any symptoms at all.
However, pregnant women who become infected can spread it to their fetus, at which point the impact of the disease becomes way more noticeable. The standout performer in the arsenal of brain defects and issues it leads to is microcephaly, in which the brain stops developing in the womb. Since the brain isn't growing, the skull just kind of collapses around it, leaving your kid with a head that's approximately half the size of a normal head.
A small price to pay for getting Usain Bolt's autograph.
The Zika virus needs three things to be in place before it can truly take hold in any given area: the Aedes aegypti mosquito, crowded human dwellings, and poverty. The Olympics are in Brazil this year. If you're even sort of familiar with that place, you already know that two of those three things are so common there that they might as well be on the flag (along with guns and beautiful people). It won't surprise you at all to know they do, in fact, have the necessary mosquitoes as well. As a result, the CDC slapped a level 2 alert on the country to warn travelers about Zika. What does that mean? I don't know, but it's worse than level 1, and level 3 means you just shouldn't go there at all, so it's not great. And that's without thousands of people from all around the world converging on Rio at the exact same time.
Last month, 150 doctors signed a letter urging the World Health Organization to postpone or cancel the games. The WHO responded by releasing a statement meant to reassure us that the threat of Zika spreading during the Olympics was slim, because mosquito activity in Brazil is usually on the decline by August.
If that doesn't do much to make you feel better about it, you're not alone. Several scientists have already come forward to point out that what the WHO is saying is based, at least in part, on the idea that the weather will be cooler and less rainy in August. Mosquito eggs don't die; they just go dormant when the weather gets cold. However, that literally changes with the weather. Any sudden rise in heat or humidity, and those eggs will hatch. But hey, the weather's been pretty easy to predict lately, right?
Also, it's worth noting that the WHO is the same organization that accepted cash from food companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle in exchange for those companies having a say in how we fight obesity and diabetes in the United States. That's like letting drug cartels have a say in how to keep cocaine from entering the country. Call me crazy, but I think I trust those 150 doctors a little more than the WHO.
Even if the Zika virus doesn't become a pandemic as a result of the Olympics, it's still a pretty safe bet that at least some of the athletes brave enough to participate will get sick, because of ...
Part of the appeal of the Olympics coming to town is that, in theory, some of the work done to get ready for a production of that magnitude will have long-term benefits for residents after the games end. That's probably not going to happen for Brazil. One of the biggest improvements was supposed to happen in Guanabara Bay, which looks beautiful from a distance in stock photos ...
... but a little less so when you see it up close.
It's brimming with raw sewage and other assorted pollutants. Back when the dream of the 2016 Olympics not becoming a full-on disaster was still alive, it was estimated that 50 percent of the water flowing into the bay was sewage. That's pretty gross, but the government of Brazil promised to reduce that by 80 percent before the opening ceremonies rolled around. Which was in the best interest of everyone, really, seeing as how a "super-bug" that's resistant to antibiotics was also found in the water around that time.
Unfortunately, Brazil being the hotbed of corruption that it is, the money that was allocated to clean up the bay has apparently gone missing, and the promise of a less polluted Guanabara Bay for Olympic athletes is now off the table. They swear the pollution doesn't pose a health risk, as does the IOC, but that's because none of their testing is checking for viral pathogens, like the super-bug mentioned earlier.
You can't possibly fathom how long I've been waiting for an excuse to use this stock photo.
Stories of athletes in practice events coming down with stomach illnesses have already started making the rounds online, but that's apparently not going to stop hundreds more from swimming or boating in literal shit water in pursuit of Olympic gold.
Even worse, the problem might even extend to the drinking water, as pointed out in this article which covers all the various immunizations a person should get before traveling to Brazil.
So even if Zika doesn't infect a single additional person as a result of the Olympics, the toilet water some athletes will be forced to compete in will still guarantee that a lot of people get sick. I suppose it's worth it if it means you might get to live the rock star lifestyle of an Olympic-medal-winning sailor afterward, but I certainly wouldn't want to risk it.
Along with the project to provide water that won't make your bowels feel like you went to Taco Bell ten times at once, do you know what also won't be finished in time for the Olympics? Everything else. Maybe I'm overstating it a bit, but there are definitely some important construction projects that still haven't been completed. Like the velodrome, for example.
If you're unfamiliar, that's the science-fiction-sounding word that's used to describe the arena where cycling competitions take place. It's an important part of the Olympic experience, and Brazil still hasn't finished building one yet. In fact, the government just cancelled the contract of the company building it. This seems like a good time to remind everyone that we're less than 50 days away from the start of the games.
At least this cable car that helps tourists take sweet pictures got done in time!
Even if they do manage to finish building it in time, they've probably cut it too close to allow for any sort of test events prior to the start of competition. That was supposed to happen back in March, but had to be called off because the track wasn't even installed by that point.
The lack of a test event is especially concerning when you consider the already unfortunate history of bike-related projects associated with these Olympics. I'm referring to the Ciclovia Tim Maia, a massive bicycle path that was completed in January. Almost as soon as it opened, the path became a target for muggers. Which is bad, but still preferable to the latest problem, which is that part of it just straight-up collapsed into the raging ocean waters below, killing two people.
Pictured above: good reason to worry.
That's not the kind of thing you want to hear alongside tales of how buildings which hold thousands of people will be rushed to completion so the games can go on. Another rush job will be an extension of the public transportation system that's being counted on to shuttle visitors between tourist areas like Ipanema and the various spots where events will be held. The most recent projections have it being completed just four days before the start of the games.
That's assuming there are no further delays, which seems unlikely when you take into account that the governor of Rio de Janeiro just declared a state of emergency due to financial obligations related to the Olympics. Apparently, a massive influx of federal funds is needed to prevent a "total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management."
Of course, it's not like Brazil wasn't already on the brink of that before the Olympics came to town. That's why ...
Security Is A Huge Problem
If there's one thing Americans know for sure about Brazil, it's that one of the most insanely violent movies of this millennium so far is about what it's like to live there. I'm talking about City Of God, which is based on actual events that happened in one of the country's many favelas. If you've never heard that word before, just know that it means "terrible goddamn neighborhood" in Portuguese.
One of the more notoriously violent favelas in Rio is Complexo da Mare, a massive collection of 15 slums all packed into one condensed area. Conveniently located right next to the airport through which thousands of tourists will funnel into the city starting a few weeks from now, it's been the target of "pacification" efforts by police since before the World Cup began last year. What that means is that the military has been occupying the neighborhood as a crime-fighting measure for well over a year now, and it's not working. Gang violence is still out of control, and probably will be for the foreseeable future.
A special police force dedicated solely to keeping the area in check was supposed to be up and running by the time the Olympics start, but recent cuts to the country's security budget have put that plan on hold. There will be a larger police presence than at any previous games, but some argue that manpower is just a smokescreen meant to mask the fact that the Brazil hasn't invested in the technology and equipment needed to keep people safe.
Everyone has guns, though, so American visitors should feel right at home.
The country's own defense minister even admitted that the necessary preparations to ensure that everyone survives in one piece have not taken place.
Athletes visiting Rio in the run-up to the games have already encountered problems with crime in the area. A gold-medal-winning paralympian from Australia was mugged at gunpoint in broad daylight right by her hotel just a few days ago.
Another ominous incident happened when one of the five hospitals designated to treat Olympic athletes was stormed by 20 masked intruders wielding hand grenades and assault rifles. They were trying to free an alleged drug kingpin who'd been taken into custody by police. Around these parts, we refer to that as "movie shit," but it happens in Brazil all the damn time.
None of the above is even taking into account that the actual government of Brazil is a complete and total shambles right now. They recently impeached their president due to allegations stemming from a massive bribery scandal, a move that happened only after nationwide protests broke out.
Protests could be an Olympic sport in Brazil.
However, some believe the impeachment was more like a coup, leading to even more protests, which aren't likely to cease by the time the Olympics start.
Between brutally repressing crime in favelas and squashing the protests of their own people, the forces in charge of keeping Brazil safe are already stretched way too thin. Expecting them to successfully take on the protection of thousands of visitors in addition to all of that is a recipe for disaster. The rampant instability in the country also goes a long way toward explaining another huge problem with the 2016 Summer Olympics, which is that ...
No One Cares
To put this last problem as simply as possible: No one wants to go to the fucking Olympics this year. One of the key aspects of successfully hosting the games in your town is drumming up enough interest with the locals to sell whatever tickets the incoming tourists don't claim. However, when almost every aspect of your country has descended into chaos, the last thing on your mind is securing primo seats for the men's high diving finals and such.
Unsurprisingly enough, this means a whopping 50 percent of the tickets for Olympic events have yet to be sold. That number is even worse in regards to the Paralympics, which have sold just 12 percent of all available seats. So far, the best plan the government has come up with to fill the empty stadiums is to buy up the remaining tickets and distribute them to local schoolkids.
Provided they aren't also busy protesting something at the time.
The various controversies and problems surrounding Brazil's preparation for the Olympics have also compelled several high-profile athletes, like golfer Vijay Singh and recent NBA Finals loser Steph Curry, to withdraw from participating.
Honestly, after spending all that time in Cleveland, how bad can Brazil really be?
United States women's soccer standout and noted domestic violence expert Hope Solo was also on the verge of backing out, but has since reconsidered, although she's vowed to stay sequestered in her room whenever she's not practicing or playing.
Also, a massive doping scandal might keep one of our favorite enemies from competing in 2016. The Russian track and field team has already been banned from making the trip to Rio. There are more doping allegations to be investigated, though, and if those turn up proven cases of wrongdoing, Russia could be kicked out altogether. Sure, when compared to all of the other problems plaguing the upcoming summer games in Rio, this one is relatively minor. But still, not having the "Evil Empire" to slap around just makes the whole production that much less interesting.
Good thing, too, because we'd fucking ruin you at ping pong, you communist piece of shit.
I know it's not what the competitive sports enthusiasts of the world want to hear, but this time around, the most obvious way to ensure the Olympics go off without a hitch is to cancel them and try again somewhere else four years from now.
Adam will be telling jokes in the Midwest this weekend with his pal Jeff May. See them in Chicago on 6/25 at North Bar in Wicker Park, in Madison, WI on 6/26 at Headquarters Bar, and in Minneapolis on 6/27 at the Comedy Corner Underground. Click any of those links to get tickets. You should also follow Adam on Twitter @adamtodbrown.
Learn why the Olympics are awful in 5 Things They Don't Want You to Know About the Olympics, and find out why boycotting does nothing in 4 Reasons We Were Right Not to Boycott the Olympics.
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