The Olympics are here. And so are the naysayers. Brazil isn’t Games ready, its people are not enthused, the country’s leadership is in turmoil, the streets are unsafe, water is unhygienic, health is at risk, life is at peril with the IS warning of an attack and the athletes — the heroes of the Games — are doping. Everything that could go wrong under the bright Brazilian sun, as per Team Catastrophe, is going wrong. But it is an old narrative. And a boring one too. Every four years, the doomsday-callers conjure up the same story of nobody turning up for the Games, and the venues being incomplete. Somewhere in all this whinging, a sporting spectacle is waiting to be unleashed. Going by past records, these early hiccups will be forgotten and only the hurrahs will be remembered.
Hosting the Olympics is a massive undertaking and the problems aren’t restricted to the developing nations. The finance chief of the Atlanta Games once said her job felt like “creating a Fortune 500 company from scratch and then take it apart at the end.” Sydney had its traffic woes, Athens looked like it would have to send back the athletes owing to incomplete work, Beijing had air pollution problems while London was battling inflated budget issues. But once the Games began, it was all forgotten. Atlanta is remembered for Ali lighting the Olympic flame and not for the minor blast at one of the venues. Beijing became synonymous with Bolt and not breathing problems and no one even talks about a young cyclist being run over by a media bus in London because that evening, Mo Farah stunned the sports world with his jaw-dropping 10,000 m run.
Rio won’t be any different. When the International Olympic Committee chose Brazil as the venue in 2009, it was a fast developing economy bracketed alongside India, Russia and China. The grouse now is that Rio isn’t as slick as it projected itself to be. In fact, it has chosen not to put up a pretentious front and is showing the world exactly what the city is, secure and happy in its flaws. So far, the majority of the athletes have dismissed the doomsday predictions and embraced their Rio adventure. The rest of us should too. For, over the next 17 days, the Bolts and the Phelps, along with thousands of others, will strive hard to ensure Rio is remembered for the right reasons.