The atmosphere surrounding the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro has largely consisted of fear and uncertainty, and for good reason. A smorgasbord of issues including Brazil’s recent outbreak of the Zika Virus, water pollution, political corruption, high crime rates, and poor infrastructure has dominated media coverage, leaving the world questioning the safety of the Games. However, now just days away from the opening ceremony, it’s time to embrace the Olympics and the thousands of athletes competing for over 200 nations in the world’s largest congregation of sports.
Every time we choose to focus on the negatives surrounding Rio 2016, forecasting rashly that the Games will be a “trainwreck” and “the worst Olympics ever” or spending more time on athletes who are banned from doping or chose not to compete rather than those participating, we do the world a disservice by failing to portray what the Olympics represents. The Olympic Games are intended to peacefully bring the world together by letting us collectively marvel at the greatest athletes Earth has to offer. These incredible people should be the ones in the spotlight, and we should be learning more about them.
This doesn’t mean that we should be negligent of the problems surrounding the Olympics, or that Brazil should get a free pass from criticism. Final voting for the host site of the 2016 Summer Games was held on October 2nd, 2009, meaning that Brazil had nearly seven years to prepare for all the attention that comes with being the center of the world for 17 days. With all the controversies surrounding the preparation, and new reports of an Olympic Village deemed “unlivable” due to poor plumbing and exposed electric wiring, the irresponsibility of Brazil in poorly planning for the largest competition in the world should not and will not go unnoticed. However, the time for that should come following the closing ceremony on August 21.
For now, we should all hope that the Olympic Games run smoothly, without the spread of disease or senseless acts of violence. The Olympics are a beautiful thing and a rare occasion which can make the world stop and bring people together. Follow your favorite athletes and learn more about those representing your country and others around the world. These are incredible individuals who have trained their entire lives just for this moment. The raw emotion on display can be inspirational. Take pride in the successes of your nation and share the excitement of every event with billions of people who will all be watching.