Sunday, 31 July 2016


Rio Rio Gone

Two years ago my friend Roger the Brit quit his job in Calgary and travelled south to Brazil to watch World Cup soccer. I wondered if he was crazy. He said, ‘If I don’t do it now, I never will.’ As the next two tournaments will be hosted by first Russia and then Qatar, I appreciated his point.

If you’d asked me then about what I knew about Brazil I could’ve given you a grade school level report: Brazil is a former Portuguese colony. It is the fifth largest country on the globe by area. It is poised, like India, to join the ranks of the world’s emerging economic powerhouses. The only mystery was the foolhardy hubris of building its capital city from scratch in the middle of the jungle. Brasilia: can’t get there from here, a long way from many places. My list of popular culture references would’ve been random: Pele and futbol, fictional Hitler clones, ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and the juxtaposition of the orgiastic Carnival in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer.

In the time since then and subsequent lead up of mere days to Rio 2016 Brazil has become something of a punch line to a shaggy dog story. The nation’s government and economy are in agitated states of insanely high entropy, chaos. Violent crime is rampant in Rio de Janeiro. Gangs? Got ‘em. Guns? Got ‘em. Police? Need ‘em. There are legitimate concerns about the personal safety of visitors. And then there’s Zika, yet another virus with a scary name which reminds us that if humanity can’t cull itself swiftly enough through constant warfare nature’s always happy to chip in with a new disease.

There was a news report last week stating that Rio drug peddlers have branded their packets of cocaine and crack with the Rio 2016 logo and the five Olympic rings. And a non sequitur warning not to use their product in the presence of children. Given what we know and suspect about the machinations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), I have to wonder if this really is an instance of unauthorized use of registered trademarks. Get higher faster on stronger stuff.

In the weeks before the curtain rises on the opening ceremonies of any Olympics, the media is rife with horror stories filed from the host city. Cost overruns are enormous and security concerns are even bigger. Organizers are scrambling to meet construction deadlines and the work completed is shoddy, often inept. The athlete’s village in Rio is said to be a leaky nightmare of exposed wiring and clogged toilets. The Australians have refused to stay on site. The problem with the johns mystifies me. I was under the impression they’d been designed to simply redirect raw sewage into the rowing basin where it would blend with the floating trash and bobbing corpses.

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad commence Friday. It’s too late to stop now and call the whole thing off. I’ll tune in from time to time even though they don’t play men’s hockey in August in the southern hemisphere. Despite all the blatant indications of looming disaster fused with catastrophe, here’s hoping that Brazil manages to somehow pull Rio 2016 off without going completely bust and doing a samba off the edge of the abyss into anarchy. That’s the spirit, something to cheer for.


  1. At the end of the day, it'll all be fucking rosebuds and lollipops as usual...

  2. At least for the television cameras.