The painful Greek Olympic legacy is doubly relevant this month. Just nine days after the Greek referendum, the first test event for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Volleyball World League Finals, start in the Maracanãzinho arena, in the shadow of the Maracanã soccer stadium.
The Athens Games were so expensive, in part, because the Greeks made such a mess of their preparations. The IOC warned the organizers repeatedly about delays. The late rush to completion escalated the costs. Rio has even bigger problems. In April 2014, John Coates, an IOC vice president, called its preparations the “worst ever,” according to the BBC.
In May, Reuters reported that the Games would cost Brazil $13.2 billion and that only about 10 percent of 56 Olympic projects were finished.
Brazil is already struggling with the legacy of the 2014 soccer World Cup, which cost it an estimated $14 billion and left it with hugely expensive stadiums it does not need. If the jungle reclaims the Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazilians will not even have the ruins to contemplate.
Some pundits have called for “austerity Olympics,” the name given to the London Games of 1948. While that might capture the mood of the times, IOC members, like the Greek public, have shown a marked reluctance to vote for austerity.
Yet the IOC could solve the problem of where to stage its increasingly costly Games and provide a helping hand to Greece by putting the Games permanently in Athens. Anyone who attended the 2004 Games has happy memories of the event, hot and humid though they were. The Greeks were good hosts. The country has historical and sentimental appeal. Greece was where the ancient Olympics were born. Athens was where the modern Olympics was reborn. Athens has the facilities. They aren’t being used for anything else. They need work, but putting the Games permanently in one place will allow it to become profitable for the host as well as for the IOC.
And the IOC is one of the few international institutions that owes a debt to Greece.
Airline pilots were once the heroes of the skies. Today, in the quest for safety, airplanes are meant to largely fly themselves. Which is why the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, which killed 228 people, remains so perplexing and significant. William Langewiesche explores how a series of small errors turned a state-of-the-art cockpit into a death trap.
On the last day of May in 2009, as night enveloped the airport in Rio de Janeiro, the 216 passengers waiting to board a flight to Paris could not have suspected that they would never see daylight again, or that many would sit strapped to their seats for another two years before being found dead in the darkness, 13,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. But that is what happened. Air France Flight 447 carried a crew of nine flight attendants and three pilotsâ€”their numbers augmented because of duty-time limitations on a 5,700-mile trip that was expected to last nearly 11 hours. These were highly trained people, flying an immaculate wide-bodied Airbus A330 for one of the premier airlines of the world, an iconic company of which all of France is proud. Even todayâ€”with the flight recorders recovered from the sea floor, French technical reports in hand, and exhaustive inquests under way in French courtsâ€”it remains almost unimaginable that the airplane crashed. A small glitch took Flight 447 down, a brief loss of airspeed indicationsâ€”the merest blip of an information problem during steady straight-and-level flight. It seems absurd, but the pilots were overwhelmed.
Amazing long read of what went wrong on that fatal flight.
This is the sound of what the World Cup sounds like when Brazil scores a goal in a Rio de Janeiro neighborhood. I love it.
Although some countries and cities have managed to profit from well-run major sports events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, they’re far from the norm, a prominent professor of economics says.
Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Newton, Mass., says prospective hosts need to think twice about whether the massive outlays of cash are worth it in the long run.
“The economic benefit is typically zero,” Matheson says in an interview set to air on CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange on Tuesday. And even when there is a modest gain, “it’s not enough to justify the price tag,” he says.
I think we know who to blame
Because the IOC and FIFA make their money from selling TV and merchandising rights, they have no incentive to keep costs from ballooning, Matheson says.
“On paper, the IOC and FIFA don’t care whether it costs $51 billion to host the Olympics in Sochi or $14 billion to host the World Cup in Brazil, because ‘I’m not paying those costs,'” Matheson says.
Officials vowed to tackle the problem after the United Nations Earth Summit here in 1992 drew scrutiny of Rioâ€™s foul waters. The Rio state government secured more than $1 billion in loans from Japanâ€™s government and the Inter-American Development Bank for cleanup projects, but they have not been even remotely successful, according to environmental experts. The State Environmental Institute in Rio de Janeiro estimates that more than 10 percent of the trash here is not collected, much of it flowing into the bay through canals and degraded rivers.
Vast amounts of raw sewage leak into the waters. Officials set a goal of treating as much as 80 percent of it by the 2016 Olympics, but less than 40 percent is currently treated.
State environmental officials have acknowledged they would fall short of that goal, The Associated Press reported over the weekend, citing a letter sent to federal authorities requesting more funding to battle pollution.
Calling the bay â€œdark, brown and stinking,â€ Lars Grael, 50, a Brazilian sailing legend who won two Olympic medals, said he had encountered human corpses on four occasions while sailing in the bay. He told reporters that officials should move the sailing events to a resort area hours away by car.
The authorities here insist that nothing of the sort will happen. Carlos Portinho, Rioâ€™s top environmental official, said the criticism of Guanabara Bay was exaggerated, contending that recent tests had shown that fecal contamination in the Olympic regatta area was within â€œsatisfactoryâ€ standards in Brazil.
Acknowledging that reversing pollution in the bay was a â€œlong-term project,â€ Mr. Portinho said that officials had deployed three small â€œecoboatsâ€ to collect garbage; by the Olympics, he said, 20 or 30 might be operating. He said that new sewage treatment plants were being built, while floating â€œecobarriersâ€ would facilitate the collection of trash in the bay.
Brazilian environmental experts say the efforts are a fraction of what needs to be done.
â€œThe government could deploy aircraft carriers to collect the bayâ€™s garbage and the problem would not be solved,â€ said Mario Moscatelli, a biologist. â€œThe bay is still a latrine. Itâ€™s an insult to Rioâ€™s people to say it will be clean for the Olympics.â€