Nope. It is not ready. Not even close. In fact, very very far from it.
I have just come back from a week-long vacation in Rio de Janeiro, and to say the least, it looks totally screwed up. And not just screwed up in the general sense of the term; it is screwed up to the extent of not being able to hold up normal city operations for the residents. I fear the worst when the city hosts the biggest sports event in the world – the 2016 Summer Olympics – starting on Aug 5.
I am an Indian, a Delhiite to be precise. I could only get a strong sense of déjà vu when I was in Rio last week. And I can entirely credit the feeling to the Delhi Commonwealth Games of 2010. We weren’t prepared either, but we somehow managed to put on a decent show because they were the Commonwealth Games – only 71 nations participated.
The Brazil Olympics, on the other hand, ladies and gentlemen, are going to host triple that number – 207 countries. That is massive; personally, I did not even know that there were so many countries in this world. Over 10,500 athletes are expected to participate, and if we count their entourages as well, the number may well go up to more than 30,000 easily. And, finally, with the millions of spectators coming from all over to witness the great extravaganza, I suspect that the Rio Olympics will disappoint the entire world.
The other reason for my déjà vu is that Brazil is very similar to India. Being a growing economy just like ours, the country is badly marred by corruption and crime. I don't think I’d be exaggerating if I say that there were many instances where I felt relieved by the fact that I was actually just a tourist in Brazil and would not be living here for the rest of my life.
Rio may be the capital of Brazil, but by golly it’s in bad shape. And with the Olympics scheduled to begin in less than 3 weeks, the situation has become even worse.
You must have all heard about the dead body that had washed ashore more than just a week ago. It made international headlines because the place is the venue for the beach volleyball event in the Olympics. But there are a thousand different things that I saw in Rio that told me even critical stories – even though I was there for just a week.
The issue with the pandemic Zika virus is very true, despite all the flowery things that the Brazilian officials will tell you. On a day when I was out to have breakfast with my partner, I saw a long queue, of over a hundred people, on the street in front of a local hospital. Everyone was either suffering from the virus or was showing symptoms of it. Although there are a lot of posters and billboards on the streets enlightening people about how not to get contaminated by the virus, with not enough medical facilities to cope with the pandemic, it seemed like a losing cause to me at least within the near future.
I read somewhere that over 1,60,000 Brazilians contracted this disease last year. Now if that’s not a staggering number, then I know not what is.
I believe that it’s a known fact now that Brazil has been badly suffering from organised drug cartels since the turn of the century. But what is probably never showcased is the rampant nature of the same. The drugs are everywhere; it is an accepted norm out in the open. I personally thought that I would encounter glimpses of it only if I happen to go by the infamous slums of the capital, but unfortunately I was very wrong.
Children as young as 10 years old, I assume, were involved in the drug trade. Since the nation, just like ours, is marred by unemployment and economic downturn, any and every earning opportunity is appreciated. I’m no journalist, but human life seems pretty cheap.
Guanabara Bay is a notorious oceanic bay in Rio, which the government was visibly desperate to get cleaned up before the start of the games. But there are several huge issues that I witnessed during my stay. The plight of the fish was the most shocking. There are dead fish everywhere. The trash along the beaches is multitudes – worse than what we see in Mumbai, because of which the floods arrive every year. It is a pathetic situation, which I personally do not know how the corrupt Brazilian government can handle.
Obviously, by now you know that the fish are not the only living beings that were found dead by the shore; I mentioned about the humans already, but what is probably yet to be broadcasted well in the media is the awfully high number of dead cats and dogs in the bay that is visible to all, every day. I wonder why this is so, but it will not make for a happy sight during the games.
As far as what I saw, the event sites were more or less complete, but another issue is transportation. It is very inconvenient. Buses are few and trains break down on whim. Unless they come up with some extraordinary measures within the next couple of weeks, there is no way the large number of people expected can commute to the event venues during the Olympics.
It’s a beautiful country alright, but just like ours is still troubled by petty issues. In the opinion of a common man such as I, all that money that has already been and will be spent for the games could have rather been spent on improving the living conditions of the natives. It obviously doesn’t help that Brazil is facing the worst economic recession since the 1930s, but it could definitely have been avoided to some extent if it weren’t for the impending games.
It is ironic that the country is home to the largest statue of Jesus Christ in the world, for it will take no less than the Redeemer himself to redeem these people of their troubles post the Olympics, if at all they take place in the first place.