When I told people I was going to Rio with my family for the Olympic Games, they were very excited.
“Are you INSANE?” they said, excitedly.
They were of course reacting to all the negative publicity surrounding these games. It has been pretty alarming. Consider these actual recent newspaper headlines:
“Rio 2016: Athletes Will Be Swimming With Human Feces and Dead Bodies”
Never miss a local story.
“Raw Sewage And Stray Bullets: Rio Is Rife With Problems Ahead Of The Olympics”
“Rio Preparing For Worst As Terror Threat Hangs Over Olympics”
“300-Foot Radioactive Herpes-Bearing Crab Destroys Downtown Rio”
OK, I made that last one up, but at this point I don’t think anybody would be surprised. There has been one scary story after another from Brazil. One of the scariest, of course, is the threat of the Zika virus, which, as I understand it, is a disease you get if you are bitten by a mosquito that is not wearing a condom. I personally am not too worried about Zika, because (a) to the best of my knowledge, I am not currently pregnant; and (b) I live in Miami, which — being a modern, sophisticated, international trendsetter city — already HAS Zika.
But I am worried about the water down here. As the headline above notes, there are dead bodies and human feces floating around. And that’s in the Olympic swimming pool.
No, seriously, it’s in the bays and the ocean. This is a major concern, because Olympic athletes will be competing in these waters, although Brazilian health authorities have reassured marathon swimmers that they “should be safe” as long as they “refrain from breathing” and “avoid direct physical contact with the water.”
On top of everything else, Brazil is plagued by government scandals. The president, Dilma Rousseff, is facing an impeachment trial and will not be attending the Opening Ceremonies; neither will the previous president, Lula da Silva, who has been ordered to stand trial in connection with a big corruption scandal. The whole mess has been a huge embarrassment for Brazil, and I have to say that, as an American, it makes me proud that I live in a nation with a political process that produces leaders who. …
At this point you are saying: “OK, so maybe the host nation is experiencing problems involving disease, crime, corruption and pollution in the form of human doodies bobbing gaily in the surf. But at least the games themselves will be a shining example of pure, wholesome, scandal-free competition in the true Olympic spirit, right?”
Ha ha! You can be such an idiot. There is a MAJOR scandal on the athletic front involving — prepare to be shocked — Russia. It appears that the Russians took time out from their busy schedules of hacking into the U.S. presidential election to run a flagrantly illegal doping operation designed to enhance the performance of their athletes.
Q. How flagrant was it?
A. Some of the Russian sprinters had as many as six legs.
As a result, the entire Russian track and field team has been barred from these Olympics. However some Russian athletes in other sports are being allowed to compete, and they have already, before the games have even begun, won a record 847 gold medals, according to the Olympic computer system.
But let’s not dwell on the negatives. Rio is a beautiful city, and the Brazilians are a proud and resourceful people. The natives here have a traditional Portuguese expression, which goes: “Nós nativos têm uma expressão tradicional Português.” (Literally, “We natives have a traditional Portuguese expression.”) This perfectly sums up the mood here as Brazil gets ready to host the world at its big party. I for one am thrilled to be part of it, having made my way from Miami via an overnight flight lasting an estimated six days. But now that I’m here, I expect to have a wonderful time, once I get my bearings. (My bearings were stolen at the airport.) No, seriously, everything has been great so far. The Brazilians are extremely friendly; our luggage made it; we found our hotel; and — most important of all, in these troubled times — my daughter has discovered that they have Pokemon Go here. Let the Games begin!