The Olympic Games are supposed to be the pinnacle of an amateur athlete’s career. This year’s games, which begin Aug. 5, may prove to be more of a survival test. Never in recent history has a host city appeared more unprepared than Rio de Janeiro.
The seaside resort city in Brazil was awarded the Summer Games in 2009, and problems have followed ever since, with the most recent being the discovery of drug-resistant bacteria growing in the water near where the sailing events will take place. The scientist who reported the find, Renata Picao, said she would not recommend moving the sailing competition, but ‘‘I don’t take my children to these beaches.”
Gang warfare wracks the city. Amnesty International said Brazil has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with nearly 42,000 killed by guns alone last year.
If the water or guns aren’t bad enough, consider the mosquitoes. The Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects in babies and is now classified as an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization, got its start in Brazil in 2015. Several athletes, including golfer Jason Day, are staying home because of the threat.
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The Summer Olympics have always been a magical time for sporting enthusiasts. Some of the world’s greatest athletes, including Nadia Comaneci, Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz, Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps and Sugar Ray Leonard, became household names after their summer performances. Unfortunately, this summer’s games seem to have a greater chance of being known for what happens away from the competition.