Marc Leishman is probably not the first name which comes to mind when arguing against the Rio 2016 Olympics. However, by the time of the posturing and the ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics is in full swing his name could very well be the most important, since Leishman, the 32-year-old Australian golfer, has officially decided to pull out of participating in the 2016 Games. Leishman has pulled out stating concerns about the Zika virus which he fears he could transmit to his wife who has a poor immune system. While this withdrawal will likely not bring the Games to a grinding halt it does raise the question as to whether the 2016 Rio Olympics will be a failure.
For the Leishman issue is merely a microcosm for greater concerns surrounding the Olympics and the Zika virus. Russia’s Sports minister Vitaly Mutko recently expressed that the Russian athletes were particular vulnerable to these diseases because of impact their heavy training system has on immune systems. Furthermore it is not just the Zika virus which is a cause for health risk for athletes and spectators. In December 2015 the Associated Press confirmed that virus levels in the waters intended for sailing events were widespread and showed no signs of abating. Therefore the tropical climate which Brazil is renowned for could in fact be its very own undoing in its attempts to host a successful games. Indeed the rowers could most be at risk from these appalling sanitary conditions with many having to get polio and hepatitis a jabs before travelling to Brazil with the Brazil Olympics committee conceding that the water will not be clean in time for the games and that indeed there is a significant risk of infection.
Yet health issues are not the only problems which Brazil indeed ironically at a time of crisis when strong political leadership is needed the Brazilian political system is offering just the opposite. The political instability in Brazil is ferocious and partisan with the vote for impeachment looming. There is a distinct possibility within the next week that a vote could be passed impeaching its Current Prime Minister Dilma Roussef. The ramifications this vote would have for Brazil especially leading up to the Olympics is huge. The Olympics can be an opportunity to place your country at the fulcrum of the world stage and potentially draw huge economic benefits as well as a sense of national unity. Indeed in the previous two Olympic held in London and Beijing while they both served different purposes both did manage to unite the country briefly around the idea of showing the best of what its counties had to offer. However in Brazil this expectation is becoming unrealistic due to the impeachment crisis which has essentially politically halved the country. The incumbent Prime Minster Roussef represents the Workers party, who have been dominant in Brazil for the last decade and whose follower’s ae loyally devotional. Yet in wake of impeachment it seems that she cannot dodge these allegations of corruption resulting in deeply divided country.
This political division has potential to have deeply negative ramifications in every process of the Olympics. Firstly you will have the deeply awkward moments during the opening ceremony where Dilma, even if impeached and barred from public office, will be bearing the Olympic flame as Brazil’s political representative. Furthermore in this political climate it is far less likely that the ebullient nature and spirit of goodwill of the London Olympics will be felt on the streets of Rio. Indeed it is of the wide scale corruption alleged in the Oderbrecht case which exemplifies the distrust between the Brazilian public and its apparatus charged with delivering the games. Oderbrecht is a company which is charged with building the rail service from the beach to the Olympic park yet it was discovered that a lot of the money given to Oderbrecht to build this infrastructure had been pocketed by politicians. It is instances such as this which have caused such outrage on the streets of Rio. Indeed the overseas spectators heading to Rio expecting its famed carnival atmosphere may be in for a rude shock following the political crises which have emerged preceding the games. Moreover it is not just political unrest which will be pervasive in Rio this summer many favelas have been displaced to outer suburbs, committing many human rights violations and it is a possibility that if you’re a spectator at the games you’re chances of interacting with the vibrant culture of the people of Rio are significantly diminished.
Previous Olympic Games have always been meant to serve a purpose, London’s in 2012 was intended to inspire a new generation to take up sport, Beijing in 2008 to announce China’s dominance as a world power. Rio will be looking to emulate the example of Beijing in 2008 however the preparations so far can be considered to be verging on disastrous. No doubt when the Olympics starts the people of Rio will attempt to be enthusiastic about a sporting event which could provide enhanced transport links and a chance for Brazil to display itself on the world stage. However considering the political division, widespread corruption and human rights violations present in its planning having such enthusiasm may be a hard task.