Brazil didn't mess up Games, nor did it make most of them

Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:26pm EDT
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By Daniel Flynn

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - As the Olympic hoardings are taken down in Rio de Janeiro and the Carnival atmosphere subsides, there is relief that cash-strapped Brazil avoided making a mess of the Games but also a nagging suspicion it did not make the most of them either.

Brazil overcame fears over the Zika virus, a painful recession that left government coffers bare, and the suspension of its president just three months before the opening ceremony of the first Games in South America.

Two years ago, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned that Brazil's preparations were the worst he had ever seen.

Yet a last-minute scramble meant that venues and a new metro line to the Olympic Park were ready in time. Security fears, which prompted the deployment of 85,000 police and security for the Games, were also proved wrong - there was no major attacks of the kind seen recently in Europe.

Yet in terms of the long-term benefits to residents and the image of Rio to the outside world, the Games could have been so much more.

"If we're content to call the absence of catastrophe an Olympic success, then I suppose it was a success but if that is the case we are setting the bar too low," said Jules Boykoff, a professor at Pacific University in Oregon and author of a book on the political history of the Games.

"From the point of view of the lives of ordinary people in Rio, it was not a successful Games. It was a massively missed opportunity."

In 2009, when a triumphant Brazil won the right to host the Games by a landslide at an IOC meeting in Copenhagen, a tearful President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said it would seal Brazil's entry into the club of "first-class" nations.   Continued...

Members of Australia's cycling and water polo teams wait for their flight home at the international airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Chris Helgren