Rio 2016: the calm before the storm - or the storm before the calm?

By Brooke Hurndell

Let's face it, the lead-up to the Olympics this year hasn't exactly been a picture of smoothness, has it? But, come the closing ceremony, will we remember all the disasters leading up to the Olympics or will they be but a blur in amongst the victorious parade of superhuman athletes?

Text Box: Image 1: travelandleisure.comThe Rio Olympics seem to be in a state of 'everything that could go wrong – did' and aren't we the first to shake our heads? Could it be that the collapsed sailing ramp is a sign of the widespread feelings towards the Rio Olympics? Sunken. Perhaps that's a testament to the headlines in our newsfeeds. One word that comes to mind when reading about The Games is 'disastrous'.

Naturally there's an allure to the stories that reinforce the conditions in Rio. It's an 'another one bites the dust' kind of deal. Accommodation conditions, kidnapped athletes, pollution, state-sponsored doping, unprovoked attacks on journalists and cameramen, Zika…. and no doubt this list is being added to as we speak.

And then there's the perspective that 'troubled' is just a description synonymous with the Olympics, wherever they may be. For example, London 2012 had traffic woes and missile batteries, Beijing had fun with air pollution problems, and Athens was widely predicted to be unprepared; catastrophes are ingrained in the history of the event.

So, is Rio the worst? Some would say 'absolutely yes', while others are standing by in optimism. Or, maybe, are we seeing what we always see, which is media going to an Olympic city ahead of the start line and doing their job – finding stories? Let's face it, 'city prepared and doing its job, all venues ready and total harmony prevails' might not be much of a story (or actually, it might be, given the history of recent Olympics…)

So, what's the message here?

The NZ Herald put out an article on Wednesday declaring the Rio Olympics as 'the worst PR Olympic games in history', citing:

-Contractors in charge of the games' infrastructure are being investigated for bribery and corruption

-The Zika epidemic – offering the potential to send athletes home with a little more than some Brazilian souvenirs

-Russian athletes banned

-Drugs, crime and water pollution

-Here's a new one for you: unpaid policemen at the airport holding banners saying "Welcome to hell"

Needless to say, this is one almighty PR nightmare.

BUT, when the athletes step up to the podium, and when the stories turn to ones of overbearing pride, will any of this matter?

Inevitably, there will be stories of superlative victories. And, just like the previous Olympics, it will be these record-breaking feats that plaster the history books. "Valerie wins 3rd gold medal at her 4th Olympics appearance"- a headline New Zealanders are rooting for of course.

The athletes are getting on with it. We'll see how quickly everyone else follows suit.


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