The Olympics are so coveted that cities often move heaven and earth (up to a decade in advance) in an effort to court both the iconic sporting event and the worldwide attention that comes from it. Seven years ago, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, was announced as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Like most host countries, local politicians and businesses have spent their time working diligently to cleanse any blemishes that could be revealed by the global spotlight. However, unlike most host countries, practically anything that could’ve gone wrong, has, including construction delays, an outbreak, and local athletes warning tourists to stay home for their own safety.
While you may be aware of a few of these unfortunate developments on the road to Rio, there are surely others that you’ve missed. So, here’s a timeline of all the obstacles Rio 2016 has and is facing, even now with only weeks before the opening ceremonies.
April 2014: Planning an event is usually the easiest part. Everything seems possible, but, as early as mid-2014, Rio was already neck-deep in preparations that the Olympic committee called “the worst” they had ever seen. Yes, even worse than 2004 Athens, when they poisoned thousands of stray dogs.
July 2015: The Associated Press finds bacteria and raw sewage in the water. This will be a persistent problem moving forward.
August 2015: Just a month later, 13 members of the U.S. rowing team, a coach, and multiple staff members fall ill after training in the very same water where traces of raw sewage were found. This is a year before athletes from around the world are meant to compete.
January 2016: One thing that’s absolutely necessary to host the largest sporting event in the world is money. Well, Brazil doesn’t have any. As early as January, Brazil had hit the worst part of a historic economic recession. This would lead to a domino effect of problems that the local government couldn’t begin to afford to fix.
January 29, 2016: The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) declares the Zika virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Meanwhile, 4,000 Brazilian babies are found to display symptoms of microcephaly, which can be tied to birth defects such as diminished brain development. The disease is reportedly carried through local mosquitos and mostly affects pregnant women. There were only 140 reported cases in 2014.
February 2016: Olympic ticket sales plummet by more than 50 percent due to the Zika virus and other factors keeping tourists away. At this point, there’s a growing concern that stadiums will be empty during the Olympics.
March 2016: News of a bribery scandal cripples construction plans as it’s revealed that local officials, including President Dilma Rousseff, may have accepted money to alter the country’s budget. Polls say 68 percent of the public support Rousseff’s impeachment. An auditor later announces that 11 workers have died in Olympic-related construction accidents between January 2013 and March 2016, possibly as a result of rushed work.
May 28, 2016: More than 100 medical experts sign a letter to the W.H.O. requesting that the 2016 Olympics either be postponed or moved to a safer location to avoid the spread of the Zika virus. However, the organization denies the request behind the belief that “based on the current assessment … there is no public health justification for postponing or canceling the games.”
June 4, 2016: Media professionals express concerns over going to Brazil to cover the Olympics out of fear that they will contract the Zika virus. Whispers among them even mention that some athletes may elect to not compete for similar reasons.
June 16, 2016: Pau Gasol joins a number of athletes who will consider freezing their sperm before heading to Brazil. Because the disease can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, and no one knows exactly how long it stays in one’s blood, no stone can be left unturned as far as precautions go.
June 18, 2016: The BBC reports that Brazil has a deficit of $5.5 billion. Local government considers halting preparations for the games because of a “serious economic crisis.”
June 29, 2016: Actual body parts wash up on Copacabana Beach where the Olympic beach volleyball events are scheduled to be held.
July 2, 2016: Preparations are quite literally turned into a sh*t show as more studies are conducted and it is discovered that the waterways in Rio have way more bacteria and raw sewage in it than should be allowed: 1.7. million times the usual amount, to be exact.
It’s so bad that athletes competing in the water have a 99 percent chance of contracting a disease after ingesting just three teaspoons of water.
July 5, 2016: Rio police protest due to more than 50 deaths in 2016, unpaid salaries, and their need to ask the community to donate toilet paper. It’s so bad that they can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to protect anyone during the Olympics. Some even greeted Olympic athletes at the airport with a sign that read “Welcome To Hell.”
What’s next? Well, we’re likely too deep into preparations for the Olympics to either be moved or called off, no matter how much it looks like that should happen. With rowers competing in water they probably shouldn’t even touch and the possibility of dead bodies washing up in the middle of a volleyball game like an episode of Fear the Walking Dead, this may wind up being a very large and very embarrassing failure on the world’s biggest stage.