Olympics have become a disgrace

first_imgEric He is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column,  “Grinding Gears,” runs Wednesdays. In a few months, the best athletes in the world will congregate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics — or at least that’s the plan.The Olympics are supposed to be a grand event, celebrating unity in the spirit of competition and bringing tremendous pride to the host country.But for this Olympics in Brazil, it’s been quite the contrary. Mired in everything from the Zika virus to doping and political scandals to unfinished infrastructure, these Olympics are building up to be one of the worst yet. Some are even calling for its cancellation.Quite frankly, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. Zika, of course, is the gravest concern. We’re talking about a sexually transmittable disease with no cure that we are only beginning to understand. Sending tens of thousands of athletes from around the world — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of fans and tourists who will cram into Rio for three weeks and then travel back to their native countries — could turn Zika into a worldwide epidemic.Heck, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement in February urging pregnant women and their partners to stay away from the Olympics because of the mosquito-borne illness, citing dangers of fetal infections and brain abnormalities. Risks as severe as those warrant a thorough examination of whether or not these games are worth it.Athletes certainly are weighing the benefits and potential costs. In February, the U.S. Olympic Committee told its athletes that they could skip the Olympics if they were worried about Zika.Women’s soccer team goaltender Hope Solo backed out of the games, though she eventually said she will “begrudgingly” participate.“I strongly believe that no athlete should be put into this position — to decide between your Olympic dreams and your own health,” Solo said to CNBC in May.Irish golfer and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy became the latest Olympian to voice his concerns, telling the BBC on Monday that he and his fiancée would like to start a family one day.This is an impossible predicament. Participating in the Olympics is a dream, an honor. But risking long-term health to take part in the games should not be part of any equation. It is unfair to the athletes who have trained their entire lives for this moment.And the crazy thing is, Zika is just the start of Brazil’s problems, which could take up an entire book. There’s the extremely polluted waterways in Rio, which means swimmers, sailors, rowers and kayakers risk having viruses and bacteria enter their bodies. The Associated Press tested the waterways last year, and the results were alarming, showing that there were 1.7 million times the number of disease-causing viruses than would be considered “highly alarming” in the U.S. and Europe. This is the water they’re asking world-class athletes to swim in.There’s the political crisis that is rocking the country, with President Dilma Rousseff suspended and facing impeachment for misusing federal funds. There’s the fact that Brazil is in the midst of its worst recession in a century, and what the government is doing to ensure this doomed spectacle looks somewhat presentable — evicting poor families from their homes to build infrastructure for the games — will only make it worse.This could have all been avoidable if Brazil wasn’t awarded with the games in the first place. But that’s difficult considering nobody really wants to host the Olympics anymore. The cities that would theoretically be perfect fits — Boston, Munich and Stockholm, to name a few — don’t want to deal with the chaos of reconstructing their city and the burden of organizing a world event. Look up images of old Olympic sites today — Athens, Beijing, Sochi, etc. — and you’ll see decrepit buildings that serve no purpose outside of three weeks of competition. In Greece, the 2004 Olympic Games are largely to blame for the massive debt crises the country is currently in.So, we are left with choices such as Brazil, a country dealing with way too many problems to take on the task of running the world’s biggest event. We are left with Beijing, China, playing host to the 2022 Winter Olympics because literally nobody wanted to host the games. The only other bidding country was Kazakhstan (yes, Kazakhstan), and the games will be completely reliant on artificial snow because it actually doesn’t snow in Beijing.I’m not advocating for the Olympics to be held exclusively in rich countries that can saddle the economic burden, but something needs to be done so that poorer nations such as Brazil can handle a tall task that takes money, time and painstaking organization. Right now, Brazil has none of the above.I’m sure Rio is a wonderful city where the games could have been wonderfully staged. But we’re less than three months away from the world’s biggest event, the point where everything should be set and only final preparations need to be made. Instead, athletes and fans are left wondering if they should risk their own health and the health of their future children in order to attend the Olympics in a country ravaged by corruption, scandals and recession. This may very well be the saddest Olympics in history — if it even gets started.last_img

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