The International Olympic Committee, much like other powerful institutions in the sports world such as FIFA and the NFL, continues to operate in secrecy with very little transparency. That’s how the Olympics have ended up in places like Sochi, Russia in 2014 and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil this summer. Although planners could not have foreseen the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, in 2009 when Rio was awarded the games, it is one of the glaring issues that has been glossed over by both TV coverage and the IOC.
The issues with Rio as a host city became quite apparent during the buildup to the games this summer when Rio police officers and firefighters greeted tourists at Rio’s airport with “welcome to hell” banners. Just outside the airport, “welcome, we don’t have hospitals” was crudely spray painted onto the side of an overpass.
The atrocious status of Rio’s waters, which more or less had athletes competing in raw sewage, was also a glaring issue. The Olympic Village, the residence for all Olympic athletes not including the United States basketball program, was not ready when the athletes started to move in for the games. Showers didn’t work, one shower only worked when the sink was turned on and there weren’t outlets in the rooms.
The most dramatic incident of the games by far was the Ryan Lochte incident, which has taken more twists and turns than a Simone Biles vault attempt. Lochte was believed to have been robbed at gunpoint, but this was later found to be an exaggerated version of the truth. The “robbery” turned out to be drunk and disorderly conduct at a gas station. Conflicting reports of what happened have emerged ranging from the swimmers broke the bathroom door to they peed all over the store and flipped items off shelves.
The incident was a big embarassment for Lochte. Even though his actions may not be that impactful in the grand scheme of things, given that the act itself was not too heinous and nobody got hurt, the reputation of the USA team still took a big hit, and Lochte lost numerous endorsements for his lie.
However, the Rio games of 2016 have also been a showcase of the world’s very best athletes and furthermore an example of what sports are all about.
Michael Phelps won his 23rd gold medal and broke a record which had stood for over 2,000 years. Phelps broke a record from ancient Greece, when the famed Leonidas of Rhodes won 12 individual Olympic titles in events like the hoplitodromos, a sprint in combat armor. Not to be outdone, Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the men’s 100 and 200 meter sprint for a record third time and became a meme in the process by smiling at the camera while leaving his competitors in the dust.
Both Phelps and Bolt deserve endless praise for their incredible feats. These are accomplishments that will truly stand the test of time. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the utter dominance of 19-year-old Katie Ledecky. A young woman the same age as most returning sophomores dusted her competition in the women’s 800 meter freestyle so badly there wasn’t another swimmer on screen when she finished. It took another 12 whole seconds for the eventual silver medalist to finish.
These are historic moments in time, moments I will remember my whole life.
Seeing Phelps on the podium for the 28th time, still getting teary-eyed and mouthing along the words to the Star Spangled Banner, is what the Olympics are supposed to be all about — a life’s journey culminating in just a moment of pure athletic perfection, combined with a love for one’s country.
So don’t let the stupidity of a few overshadow the truth. The Olympics are a must watch.