June 02, 2016
by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Five Ring Circus
In a mere 65 days, almost 10,000 athletes from 204 countries will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the start of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. An additional 500,000 spectators are expected to file into Rio’s athletic venues, walk its crowded streets, tour its famous monuments and seamy favelas, and frolic on its fabled beaches. Over a hundred thousand more – athletes, staff and tourists – will visit Rio the following month for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
I love watching the Olympic Games. I will likely spend those two weeks in August with every free hour glued to the television watching the world’s greatest athletes compete in sports from archery to wrestling. I also love Rio de Janeiro, a city that rightfully deserves the Portuguese-language nickname Ciudad Maravillosa, or Marvelous City. That said, I worry that these games will be an unmitigated disaster.
There are a lot of reasons to be worried about these Games. There is, for example, the fact that many of the athletic venues being built for South America’s first Olympics are not yet finished; it will require a herculean effort by the Rio Games organizers to complete them in time. There is also the current political crisis unfolding in Brazil, with populist President Dilma Rousseff recently impeached and placed on trial for corruption in what many of her supporters are calling a bloodless coup.
There is also the ongoing and still unfolding doping scandal, with Russia fighting claims that it engaged in systematic efforts to hide evidence of widespread abuse of performance enhancing drugs by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.