Rio Games far from perfect but Asia must have an open mind because there are lessons to be learned
As one controversy after another bedevils organisers, the IOC longs for the stability Asia will soon provide
In the end, things might just work out for the Rio Games. Not for the city, nor the country but for the Games themselves.
Easily the most calamitous build-up to an Olympics in the modern movement, the least we can do for this beleaguered Brazilian city is give it a chance. After all, they have taken so many knocks, many of them self-inflicted but others the result of soulless and woefully inept international sporting associations.
Undoubtedly there will be some memorable athletic performances over the next 14 days because there always are at the Olympic Games. And no question there will be a fair bit of controversy as well. But as we are habitually pumped into a state of hysteria by endless media reports over the deplorable conditions and infrastructure of the city, country and facilities, it will take work to concentrate on the athletes.
Understand that Brazil is inherently dysfunctional and hope for the next few weeks that it might be functionally dysfunctional and you may enjoy things. While Brazil is undoubtedly a proud country, it is also a desperate one in so many ways. We cannot change that, only Brazilians can. Sorry exalted IOC members, but it will take more than hosting an Olympic Games to positively change and shape a culture.
In fact, a case can easily be made that the massive public debt to host the first Olympics in South America has left the country in considerably worse shape than before. And remember this is a country that is still hungover from the crippling debt incurred during the World Cup two years ago.
Both Fifa and the IOC are renowned extortionists who take billions while leaving a crushing legacy of interminable debt. However, neither group held a gun to Brazil’s head and forced them to host these events.
Those decisions were made by a core of odiously corrupt and face-saving politicians, a breed that are hardly endemic to Brazil. They just happen to be having the most catastrophic effect on that country.
For the people of Brazil, the good and honest people who are striving for dignity amidst the soaring poverty, rampant crime and the biggest political scandal of the past 50 years, for them it behooves us to try to enjoy the Games with relatively untainted eyes. It won’t change a thing other than perception. But, at the very least, that’s a start.
Here in Asia there are also many lessons to be learned from the events in Brazil and very little time to apply them because once the Olympic torch is extinguished in Rio on August 21, it is on its way over here for an extended run.
The 2018 Winter Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Never before has a continent had all three in succession and rest assured that the IOC hacks are gleefully rubbing their hands over the sterile joys of modern Asian efficiency.
There will not be any events nearly as exotic and mesmerising as beach volleyball on Rio’s Copacabana Beach. But all of the issues that plague Rio – the lack of a security, transportation, accommodation, sanitation and telecommunications infrastructure – should not be a problem either. South Korea and Japan are at the vanguard of telecommunications while China is evolving by the moment with relatively low crime rates.
Asia is as safe a bet as there is right now for the IOC. However, in the case of Japan at least, it may be a little too safe. There is no question the Japanese are unfailingly courteous. But inviting? Not particularly, and that has to change not only for the sake of successfully hosting the Games but for the future of this guarded country as well.
In 2002, when Japan co-hosted the World Cup with South Korea, the differences between the two nations was stark. All over Korea there were banners celebrating the event and massive public gatherings. But in Japan there was barely a trace of the event. It was almost like Japan wanted the World Cup, it just didn’t want the world.
Hopefully the hosting of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will have greased the skids on the welcome wagon because so much of the world is pointing towards coming to Japan in 2020 after taking a pass on the uncertainty of Rio.
But that is for another day. For now, a little love for our friends in Rio can’t hurt. If there is anyone who needs an Olympian sized hug right now, it’s the good people of Brazil.