With all the clamor about how unfit and unready Rio de Janeiro’s was in its role as host of the Olympic Games, many folks read or watched the news to see just what fiasco would occur.
Running up to the games (no pun intended), stories abounded as to the conditions athletes would experience at their respective venues and in their living quarters. Some of which proved to be true, albeit not as dire as foretold. Other stories, though entertaining, were just plain bogus.
One of those bogus stories revolved around a kayaker hitting a sofa just under the water in Guanabara Bay during a practice run. By most accounts, official and unofficial, that didn’t happen. Although there were images of a couple sofas sitting on the bank, those sofas had apparently made it to shore before the kayaks came along. It’s a funny story, unless one is Brazilian. And, although there were enough real stories of things in the water — plastic bags, human sewage and television sets — to make a tale of hitting a sofa plausible, this one didn’t happen.
Another tale that proved to be false was the one told by U.S. swimmers about being robbed at gunpoint. It is disappointing on many levels and likely to be one of the most remembered storylines of the Olympiad. Local officials went after Ryan Lochte and his cohorts aggressively when they determined their tale was a lie. It’s probable Rio officials were out to prove to the world they were not the lawless wasteland being portrayed but which so many probably nodded their heads with an “I told you so” attitude. Officials probably had more than a little righteous indignation in their efforts to set the record straight.
The International Olympic Committee, which governs the games, shoulders a fair share of blame for selecting cities that are unqualified as venues for such a massive undertaking. Many of the same complaints about readiness of facilities were also heard at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. One could make the case the committee is attempting to be fair to everyone in selecting such places as Sochi and Rio, but a similar case could be made about the unfairness of expecting these places to provide world-class facilities to world-class athletes. Another case can be made that the committee was demonstrating its political correctness in choosing such venues.
By sheer count of medals, U.S. athletes gave a good account of themselves, again. There were the expected wins — U.S. basketball — and unexpected wins — Katie Ledecky and the Final Five — to make Americans feel good about themselves, even if vicariously.
Many of us only watch certain events during Olympic competition, or in the case of soccer, the World Cup. The games serve as a reminder that athletes come in all shapes, sizes and skills.
Despite the challenges, Rio pulled it off and should feel good about itself. There are still problems in Rio, but for the most part, the city and country withstood most of the scrutiny from the world’s media.