Did Rio de Janeiro honor its commitments to the Olympics and will they for the Paralympic Games?
As the Rio games came to a close, it’s easy to be critical of how the events unfolded. With a crumbling government in financial crisis, security threats, and the Zika virus, what will be the lasting legacy for these games?
How were they able to manage risks when it seems as if everything was wrapped in some bit of controversy? Here’s a look at the 2016 Olympics in Rio from a liability perspective.
Rio was awarded the Olympics by the International Olympics Committee in 2009, so from start to finish, there are seven years to prepare the facilities, ensure security, and prepare for all of the miscellany that comes along with financing one of the biggest sporting events in the world. But is seven years enough?
Not in the case of Rio 2016. Just weeks before the event is set to begin, Interim Governor Francisco Dornelles – currently serving during an impeachment trial – declared it’s in a "state of calamity.” In the statement, Dornelles writes, “The financial crisis has brought several difficulties in essential public services and it could cause the total collapse of public security, health care, education, urban mobility and environmental management.”
But was this simply a strategic move?
Brazil’s strict fiscal responsibility laws deem that governments are not able to take out any more loans if they are unable to pay their own debt, except in the most extreme circumstance, and a state of calamity qualifies, even though it was meant for natural disasters, not a financial crisis.
Just a day after the “state of calamity” was announced, Rio was awarded 850 million dollars from the government to prevent a “budgetary collapse,” and also to finish building a subway line meant for the Olympics.
Risk? Managed, but could have been avoided.
At the airport, off-duty police officers hold signs warning visitors. Recently, signs read “Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe."
While Rio has never had a reputation of being completely safe, especially in the favelas, the situation, for the Games was alarming at first.
According to the Washington Post, “The homicide rate in Rio is up 15% through the first four months of 2016, while street robbery is up 24%.”
Australian Paralympic athlete Liesl Tesch, and her trainer Sarah Ross, biked near their hotel on June 19th when they were robbed at gunpoint by two men. This was in broad daylight.
There were parts of a mutilated body that recently washed up on Copacabana Beach, the place Olympic beach-volleyball matches will be played.
In the current financial crisis, civil police officers haven’t been paid and are on strike, putting security even more at risk. However, with the 850 million dollar bailout, police are expected to begin getting back pay, hopefully putting them on the streets in time for the Games to begin.
Olympic organizers estimated that approximately 85,000 security personnel, from special forces to police officers, were used used during the Games. This was double the number used in London in 2012
Symptoms of the Zika virus include a mild fever, skin rash, muscle and joint pain, malaise, conjunctivitis, or headache that lasts two to seven days.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “There is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.” They’ve also warned that there may be links to other neurological disorders.
Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos, though it’s also contracted sexually. Therefore, anyone who comes in contact with the virus in Rio, could also spread it to others who never even traveled to the area. To prevent the spread of Zika to other areas, WHO recommends that traveling individuals, “should adopt safer sexual practices or abstain from sex for at least eight weeks after their return, even if they don’t have symptoms.”
Also, women who are pregnant were warned not to attend the games. The WHO warns sexual partners of pregnant women to abstain from sex throughout the pregnancy or use condoms, as the virus is immediately damaging to an unborn baby.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns travelers who feel symptom-free upon returning from Rio – or any other Zika-stricken area – to “take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks so that they do not spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes.”
So what did this mean for the games? Simple: many of the marquee players did not attend, and since the games have become more of a media machine, this has damaged the worldview of not only Rio, but the Olympics as well.
There’s no way to manage the risk of spreading communicable diseases with an estimated 500,000 visitors that could be coming in contact with infected mosquitos and then returning to places all over the world with the possibility of spreading the disease
Did athlete's risk Zika to participate in the games? Did spectators put themselves at risk with the major security collapse to be part of the experience? Only time will tell how risks will be managed and whether the games legacy will be one of the highest level in sport, or one of the lowest level in risk management.