Mounting issues ahead of the Rio Olympics

By Chris Rattue

Children play in a water fountain next to Olympic rings at Madureira Park in Rio de Janeiro. photo / AP
Children play in a water fountain next to Olympic rings at Madureira Park in Rio de Janeiro. photo / AP

Now for the good Olympic news. Just kidding...this year's Rio Games have been dogged by bad news and it's not getting any better with ticket sales still reported to be poor.

In an effort to drum up positive vibes, a spokesperson pointed out that the August Games are in winter when life is a little tougher for the disease-carrying mosquitoes. Whew.

We check out the dismal Olympics scorecard.

Austerity measures

Brazil, the world's seventh largest economy, was booming when it won the Games rights in 2009. Now, it is trying to claw free of a crippling recession. These Olympics face the ultimate cutback - to the opening and closing ceremonies. Even volunteer and car numbers will be trimmed. VIPs will make do with more ordinary food than originally intended. Seating is reduced at rowing, swimming, sailing and beach volleyball. Tents will be used instead of buildings. There were suggestions athletes would be charged extra for air conditioning.

Apathy. Anger.

Less than half of the 4.4m tickets allocated to Brazilians have been sold. For the Paralympics, the situation is disastrous with only 10 per cent of three million tickets having been sold. It is predicted that protests will turn into big demonstrations. The arrival of the world's best sports people is failing to excite a country in economic strife, where the Government must pay for any Olympic budget overspend.

Transport

A 16-km subway from central Rio to Olympic Park will carry about 300,000 fans a day, or will it. It's about $380m short for now and needs a federal Government rescue, according to a Wall Street Journal report this month. It detailed other concerns, about unfilled security equipment contracts.

Disease

A new rapidly spreading virus named Zika is among the mosquito-borne diseases causing chaos and is heading Rio's way. It has infected about 1.5m people and caused thousands of infants to suffer brain damage. The more Zika and friends head to Rio from the poorer regions, the less overseas sports fans will do the same.

Sewage and debris

The Olympics superbug, especially for sailing, rowing, canoeing and triathlon competitors. Only a third of Rio sewage is treated. Water venues are so infected with viruses that they would be closed in many countries. Illness has hit athletes training there. German sailor Erik Heil contracted a so-called super-bacteria - a skin infection that resists antibiotics - although some experts doubted the Rio water was to blame because it is usually passed on by skin contact. In response, Heil came up with a plan - to wear plastic overalls near the shore. But AP reported Olympic waterways are "rife with pathogens far offshore" because raw sewage flows into them. Brazilian officials have conceded that their hosting pledge to clean up will fail, apart from token efforts such as using small boats to pick up some debris.

Slums v stadium

The forced relocation of slum residents led to injuries when the bulldozers and police with rubber bullets moved in mid-2015. Not a nice look.

Surprise, surprise...corruption.

A federal police chief said engineering companies "very probably" broke price fixing laws and used bribery with investigators looking at $10b worth of contracts. The head of the company with the majority of the Olympic contracts is actually in custody on a wider corruption case. the chief executive of another company is already in hail, and executives form two others are facing charges.

Russia without love

Hurdling legend Edwin Moses from the United States and New Zealand's running star Nick Willis are among those demanding Russia, whose federation is currently suspended, is banned from track and field because of a doping scandal. If the Russians do compete, the legitimacy of the Games will be severely tested. But the absence of one of the big guns will also knock the Games' image, especially as the old-world rivalry with the USA still holds some appeal. This is a no-win situation and the Russian controversy will hurt the build up to the Games.

- NZ Herald

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