David Leggat: Get ready for great carnival of sport

It's interesting to ponder what the cariocas - the residents of Rio - make of the Games. Photo / Greg Bowker
It's interesting to ponder what the cariocas - the residents of Rio - make of the Games. Photo / Greg Bowker

As the Olympics prepare to begin today, how's this for a catch-all description offered by the Rio 2016 head spokesman of what lies ahead in the coming fortnight: "Fasten your seatbelts."

It doesn't exactly sing of joyous times ahead; more a roller-coaster of emotions and experiences.

For all the dire warnings about personal safety for visitors to Rio, and the infrastructure and health shortcomings, it's interesting to ponder what the cariocas - the residents of Rio - make of the Games.

Most likely, it's a mix of indifference, fascination and grumbles about the cost, given the city has major financial issues to solve.

What will happen once the Games have moved on later this month?

Nothing much will have changed for the locals, the circus will have left town, and that's their rub.

There's a pile of cynicism for organisers to work through.

Remember, it was just two years ago that Brazil hosted football's World Cup. Football matters to proud Brazilians. They're quite good at it, after all, as five World Cup titles would attest.

Will the Olympics touch the same high notes? Unlikely.

It's just different and there are no shortage of stories highlighting low ticket sales.

Games also tend to be more memorable if the home team do well.

Brazil's hasn't started on the right note, with a goalless draw against South Africa. Success won't alter life in the favelas (slums), but it does help the general vibe.

Rio isn't the first Olympics to begin with large question marks about how they'll turn out.

Take Athens 12 years ago, where roads were still being built - without gutters - in the days leading up to the opening ceremony. The mind can play tricks, but the memories of that Olympiad are good.

Horror stories are tumbling out of Rio.

The Australian photographer relieved of $40,000 of equipment; the rifling of accounts at knife or gunpoint through cash machines; three Games tourists from Sweden kidnapped at gunpoint and taken into a favela; street robberies up 81 per cent in a year; traffic snarl-ups adding to a sense of chaos.

It all points to the depressing prospect of the most crime-ridden Olympics of all coming round the bend. Don't want to sound unduly negative, but ...

There is a positive perspective floating about, one that goes once competition begins, much of the gloom surrounding Rio off the field, so to speak, will take over.

You hope for a fortnight where sporting achievement throws a stunning spotlight on what is good about sport.

Hold that thought and let's see.

- NZ Herald

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