It’s been a year since btw explored the notion of a changing attitude toward the Olympic Games. As the Rio Summer Olympic Games’ Opening Ceremony will begin tomorrow, August 6, let’s take a closer look at the preparation for the Games, the arrival of athletes and spectators, and what to expect once all the competitions get under way.
The moment the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro won the bid to become a host city, many were concerned about Brazil’s ability to handle such a responsibility. This is because a history of poor political leadership and a worsening economic environment. But Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes said that the city has been “transformed.” In addition to new and improved sports venues, there have been improvements to the city, such as access to basic sanitation and clean water, improved public transportation, and new museums.
The government has responded to concerns about the city’s history of a high crime rate with 85,000 police and soldiers on the streets. But not all improvement commitments were made. The city of Rio pledged to treat at least 80 percent of the sewage that plagues Guanabara Bay, upon which the city is built. Scientists who monitor the quality of the water say it has been improved around 20 percent. Many are concerned that few of the improvements will benefit the people of Rio once the games are over.
Earlier this year, btw brought you news of a new International Olympic Committee (IOC) rule that allowed refugees to compete under the Olympic flag. After initially identifying 43 potential candidates, the IOC recently announced the names of ten athletes—five originally from South Sudan, two from the Democratic Republic of Congo, two from Syria and one from Ethiopia—who will compete. Their sports include running, Judo, and swimming.
btw also brought you news earlier this year about Russian runners who were banned from competition. Since then, further investigations uncovered positive doping results from members of the weightlifting, rowing canoeing, swimming and diving teams—more than 100 Russian athletes in all. On a positive note, all 21 members of the Russian gymnastics team have been cleared to compete.
On Friday, August 5, these Games will officially commence with its formal opening ceremony. Rules concerning what must take place were written into a charter and go back to the 1920 games, updated as needed over the years. Each ceremony is produced by a guest creative director. This year, filmmaker Fernando Meirelles (City of God) leads a team of thousands to pull of a giant spectacle. However, he has vowed that the budget will be significantly less than that of London, to be respectful of the fact that the country is experiencing a recession and that many live in extreme poverty. Homegrown celebrities to be featured during the festivities will include supermodel Gisele and singers Caetano Veloso and Elza Soares.