The Rio Olympic Disaster Finds A Fresh Failure

Add power outages and missing equipment to the long list of problems facing the Rio Olympics

Yeah, that about covers it — Getty Images
Apr 19, 2016 at 12:01 PM ET

In advance of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro—now less than four months away—the gymnastics federation held a test event this week at the Rio Olympic Arena. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but it did not go well.

There were power outages, which is not only an inconvenience for spectators but also a safety issue for competitors. A gymnast probably wants to see where she’s going to land from her vault or where exactly the other uneven bar is mid-flip. (They are inherently uneven, after all.) Oh, and some flooring was missing, too, “due to a lack of funding,” according to one gymnastics federation official, as reported by the Associated Press.

As members of the Association of Olympic International Sports Federations surveyed the progress (or, at times, lack thereof) of the venues, Rio’s sports director, Agberto Guimaraes, admitted to the ASOIF that, despite seven years of preparation, the sport sites “were not perfect or up to your expectations” although he added, “I can assure you that the athletes will not have any problems in games time, nor any of you in your events.”

The early returns, however, have not been good. Just last month, the head of cycling’s world governing body—who now may have his attention turned to “moto-doping”—said it would be a “challenge” to complete the velodrome in time for Olympic competition. A Brazilian federal court blocked about $35 million in funding for a venue that will host 11 sports. In January, officials slashed $500 million from the budget as the country endures its worst recession in decades. (“In 2015, Brazil’s economy shrank by a harrowing 3.8 percent, the result of nothing going right,” wrote the International Business Times.) Oh by the way, the president is implicated in a scandal and was impeached by the country’s lower congressional house just this week.

“[Preparations] have now entered into a very operational phase where these kinds of political issues have much less influence than at other stages of organising the Olympic Games,” the IOC said in an official statement. Phew. At least the political corruption allegations came late enough that progress on the Olympics have apparently passed the point of no return.

None of the above even considers the greatest safety concerns to athletes and spectators: there’s still the Zika virus and horrendous water pollution. Zika, don’t forget, is linked to a terrible birth defect. And one sailor apparently contracted MRSA from Rio’s waters.

To add extra oversight, the IOC is now sending two of its highest-ranking executives to Rio for the duration of the preparation, according to the AP report.

The fact that 55 percent of event tickets remain unsold could be a blessing in disguise— since fans may be left sitting in the dark, drinking bacteria-infected water, and getting bit by virus-ridden mosquitoes.