The disaster-fraught road to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics

With 4 days to go before the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, here’s a timeline highlighting the travails the country had to surmount in order to reach this stage.

7 years before the opening:

Rio de Janeiro wins the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. It is the first host from South America. It will be a budget event: every Olympic host since Barcelona 23 years ago has built a new stadium in which to stage the Opening Ceremonies, but Rio will use the Maracana, a 65-year-old soccer stadium.

“There are two types of Olympic Games. . . One that uses the city, and one where the city uses the Games.”

– What Pasqual Maragall, who was Barcelona’s mayor during the 1992 Summer Olympics, told The Washington Post, in the October 12, 2015 article In Rio, Olympic ambitions, but a bottom-line conscience.

2 years before the opening:

Brazil hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The investigation into allegations that Petrobras – named the most ethical global oil and gas company in 2008 – took bribes from construction companies in return, for awarding them lucrative contracts begins. Called Operation Lava Jato (“Car Wash”), it is the biggest corruption probe in Brazil’s history.

1 year before the opening:

A report by the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice reveals that 19 of the 50 most violent cities in the world are in Brazil. That’s more than any other country in the world.

German Olympic sailor Erik Heil is treated for MRSA, a flesh-eating bacteria, after sailing in an Olympic test event in Rio. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) declines calls to conduct viral tests of Rio de Janeiro’s waterways, assuring that World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines only recommend bacterial testing.

10 months before the opening:

The United Nations (UN) accuses Brazilian police of killing street children to “clean the streets”.

9 months before the opening:

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) issues a provisional ban against Russian track and field athletes from international competition following a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

7 months before the opening:

Brazil enters into its worst recession since the 1930s. The last time Brazil had back-to-back years of recession was 1930 and 1931. Reuters reports that the cost of Rio’s 2016 Olympics has risen by almost $100 million.

6 months before the opening:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declares the Zika epidemic to be a global emergency.

5 months before the opening:

It is decided that a team of refugees will compete at Rio under the Olympic flag.

Rio cuts its security budget by 35% and changes its original promise to clean up the sewage-infested water of Guanabara Bay for pollution to just cleaning up the sailing lanes. Only 40% of sewage is treated in Rio.

4 months before the opening:

The Olympic torch is lit at Olympia in Greece and taken on a 95-day tour of Brazil, visiting 83 cities, 26 state capitals and 500 towns, and reaching an estimated 90% of the population.

Only half of the tickets have been sold but hotels in Rio are almost 100% booked.

Amnesty International reports that the police are responsible for 1 in 5 homicides within the city of Rio de Janiero.

A report by Rio de Janeiro’s Regional Labor and Employment Office reveals that people died while working on Olympic facilities or Games-related projects between January 2013 and March 2016. No workers died in preparation for the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

3 months before the opening:

The Senate votes to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for corruption during the 2014 elections. Vice President Michel Temer becomes interim president.

Despite spending 39.5% of its Olympics budget on transport infrastructure, a % which dwarfs London’s 9.5%, it is confirmed that Metro Linha 4, a subway line intended to connect the largest of four Olympic venue clusters with the rest of the host city, will open just 4 days before the games begin and offer limited service: the line will be available only to event ticket holders, athletes and media covering the games and trains will be less frequent.

2 months before the opening:

The WHO says that there is a very low risk of further international spread of Zika virus as a result of the Olympics and Paralympics as it will be the south American winter and there should be fewer mosquitoes.

The IOC upholds the IAAF ban but allows clean athletes to compete under a neutral flag. A report reveals that the number of homicides in Rio state is up 15% in the first four months of 2016 compared with 2015.

Rio declares financial emergency and asks for federal aid to avoid “total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management”.

Parts of a mutilated body wash up on Copacabana beach near the basketball venue.

1 month before the opening:

Brazilian athletes does not give enough samples to WADA to test for doping, its excuse being that the main laboratory in Brazil was suspended during that period. WADA counters that it should have sent the samples to another laboratory.

The Australian Olympic team refuses to move to the Olympic Village, saying that the accommodation is “not safe or ready”. Problems include “blocked toilets, leaking pipes, and exposed wiring.” Upon arrival, a member of Australia’s basketball team has to make his own shower curtain. The beds are also too small for big athletes. The athletes are also robbed during a fire evacuation caused by burning pieces of cardboard in the basement car park.

The mother-in-law of Formula 1 Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone is abducted in São Paulo, and released after a police raid after 10 days with no ransom paid. A New Zealand-born jujitsu athlete and his partner are kidnapped by 2 police officers who force him to withdraw money. They are rescued by police from the same branch.

The security contract for Olympic venues is finally awarded – most host nations confirm contracts a year in advance. Brazil aims to deploy twice the number of security personnel as London did for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

British longjumper freezes his sperm before heading to Rio, so that contracting the Zika virus won’t affect his chances of having children.


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