In just over a week’s time all eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro for one of the biggest global sporting events, the Olympic Games. 10,000 athletes from 205 nations will be competing throughout August for medals and pride alike. Yet despite the natural excitement that has begun to emerge, I think the Olympics have lost their magic. Perhaps it’s my sceptical side talking, but the majority of build-up coverage has been negative and I want to look at why this is: what has damaged the spirit of the Games?
Hosting a global sporting event is a strain on any country, but if the 2014 World Cup in Brazil taught us anything, it’s that more needs to be done to assess the ability of a nation to carry that burden. Two years later, the Olympics have again highlighted this. The nation cannot afford to solve their own domestic issues such as widespread poverty and crime, but have still poured huge amounts of money into 10 competing venues and resources for a 16-day event. The citizens of Rio have been protesting for years about this and have been ignored by their government. The message being portrayed here is both worrying and simple: apparently, glory is more important than people’s lives.
Another issue for these Games has come with the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil: a “pandemic in progress” as the BBC reports. For athletes and spectators alike, the high risks of this virus have made many apprehensive to travel. What does it say about an event when people are worried for their own safety in attending? Around the world we have institutions such as the WHO and the UN whose aim is to help ensure basic rights within every nation– why is it that such violations will be ignored for the sake of competing? I think that Brazil bidding for the Games and being rewarded is a global double standard, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. A possibility could be to implement criteria that any nation bidding has to meet to prevent countries winning bids that do not even have the resources to help their own people first. The Olympics is not worth more than health and wellbeing but it is a shame that Brazil is the perfect case study to stress these blurred lines of priority and weak justification.
Even if the location of the Games was unproblematic, this year has seen renowned athleticism overshadowed by doping scandals. The athletes themselves have also tainted the legacy of the Games, and we still don’t know the full extent. Each nation should be celebrating their national pride through honest sport, but the competitiveness has been taken too far. We don’t know just how many athletes truly deserve the medals and honour they have been given prior to these investigations. How many of these guilty athletes have inspired new generations of sportsmen and women, only for it to be revealed that their success was a farce? It also instates a sense of suspicion amongst those not involved. Although the actions of the guilty parties have been widely condemned, what’s to say it won’t continue and others will again beat the doping tests and cheat their way to a medal or new record at Rio 2016? The honesty of training and competing for these events has been disregarded, as has what it means to earn the right to represent your country. Of course, I am aware that not every athlete was involved with these scandals, but personally I will be watching the Rio Games with a new sense of wariness; the awe has been spoiled.
For me, the Olympics are not the same: dishonesty and disregard have warped the meaning of success. I’m sure when the Games begin on the 5th August, they will be enjoyable on the surface, but the deeper issues that I have highlighted will still be prominent too. Sport is one of the few ways that people from all over the world can come together, but I find it hard to be optimistic about Rio 2016. People will forget about the long-term problems for short-term entertainment, which isn’t acceptable or fair. The Olympics will revive the magic and reputation it deserves when it is about the sport only, and not about disadvantaging people or rules in spite of it. Until then, it will not be the great sporting event it once was.