Rio Can’t Pay Its Olympic Bills

The lesson, once again, is not to host the Games in the first place

I know that feel, Neymar — Getty Images
Dec 14, 2016 at 10:52 AM ET

Earlier this month, International Olympic Committee officials dubbed this summer’s five-ringed affair in Rio de Janeiro “the most perfect, imperfect games,” a seemingly apropos tagline that was half-witty summation and half-bemused shrug.

“As you remember in the lead-up to the games, we are all going to die of Zika or poisoned water or we were all going to be mugged in the streets,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said, per the Associated Press. “As it turns out, we find out that the games were the most universal, the most consumed ever.”

Added Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games, “We had glitches. But when everyone comes back with a big smile, you know the games have been a success.”

After all, television networks paid $4 billion for international media rights and, as the Independent estimated, separate marketing agreements were projected to net another $9.3 billion. It’s no wonder the IOC had a smile on its face.

Those left in the Olympics’ wake—most notably, Rio itself—are decidedly not so pleased.

An AP report on Tuesday indicated that, four months later, Rio organizers have several past-due accounts; among them is a $3.7 million travel grant owed to the International Paralympic Committee.

“Some of our smaller national Paralympic committees, who took out loans to pay for their travel for the Games, are now in serious danger of defaulting on their repayments,” IPC spokesman Craig Spence told the wire.

There’s been fiscal carnage wreaked by the process of bidding for and hosting the Olympics which, time and time again, play the role of budget-killing interloper. Back in June, a “state of calamity” was declared because the state government was bankrupt and needed a bailout to avoid a financial emergency.

Rio mayor Eduardo Paes reportedly has had bank accounts frozen after being accused of malfeasance for waiving $710,000 in environmental assessments for the company that built the Olympic golf course. (Paes issued a statement criticizing the freeze and vowing to appeal.)

Meanwhile, former state of Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral—credited with helping champion the Olympic cause for Brazil—was arrested and indicted on charges that he ran an organized crime ring that accepted some $64 million in bribes related to the 2014 World Cup. (At the time of his arrest, he and his lawyers offered no comment.) Reuters reported that federal police and prosecutors have ongoing inquiries into several infrastructure projects for the Olympics as well.

So while the IOC had the perfect outcome of boffo revenue and, Ryan Lochte aside, no embarrassing gaffes—other than the disastrous drug testing protocol that nobody has seemed to really care about—what has the Olympics bequeathed to Rio? The Wall Street Journal put it best: an austerity hangover.