Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

5 May 2014

It’s been a tough few months for Rio de Janeiro. We’ve all heard the horror stories about the dreadful state of preparations for this summer’s World Cup and we’ve all seen on television those violent riots that erupted last week just blocks from the sands of Copacabana. It’s a tough time if you’re a Carioca.

But as all eyes are on Brazil for the World Cup this summer, others – most notably those in Lausanne, Switzerland – are looking towards 2016.

Earlier this week, International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president John Coates declared that Rio’s preparations for the summer Olympics were the worst he’s ever experienced – much worse than Athens. Talk about not mincing words. If this is the worst there possibly is, you know things are really bad.

It’s startling to think that construction on some of the venues hasn’t even started yet. There are also serious concerns about the water quality for sports like sailing and canoeing. The big problem here though is that there is no plan B, as Coates put it. If venues remain unfinished or if there is too much pollution, there aren’t any alternatives. You could potentially ask a city like Sydney or even London to host the Games but the infrastructure and money required in less than two years wouldn’t make it a realistic option. So no matter how you put it, we’re stuck with Rio whether we like it or not.

I hope that comments from Coates and the IOC provide a wake-up call for organisers. They have not only the Olympics on their shoulders, but also the weight of the entire movement. These Games will be a serious test of whether the Olympics can ever be held in a country outside of the world’s richest. If Rio can pull this off it will be a great signal to the rest of the world that no matter your economic strength, bringing the Olympic movement and spirit to life is a real possibility. But, if things continue as they are, be prepared for the biggest disaster in Olympic history.

Phil Han is a producer for Monocle 24.

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