For any Olympian or athlete for that matter, the value of a strong start can not be underrated. The point is to start off the competition one is in with forward momentum out of the gate and just as importantly, not having to play catch up during the rest of the game. Pressure sets in the middle of the competition with the knowledge of one’s bad start and knowing the rest of their competition has to be perfect. A sprinter or swimmer that fails to kick off his/her’s race with a strong push off the starting block or leap into the pool will almost currently lose. And sometimes, an entire sporting competition can be forced to play the catch up game because poor practice and training.
Olympic Games are never without some news outside the competitive arena. Rather it be accusations of doping and use of performance enhancing drugs, political and sociological issues with the host country, or corruption issues with the International Olympic Committee (which is in my axis of sports corruption with FIFA and the NCAA), the premise of the Games itself is to bring different people with different ideologies, beliefs, and cultures together. That being said, the 2016 Rio have been overwhelming dominated with storylines and reports that have nothing to do with the athletes journeys and more to do with the conditions they have to live in during the quadrennial tradition.
Issues in Rio include toxic water right outside the Olympic Village and water used in training, cramped living rooms for the Olympians, sanitation problems all around the city of Rio, garbage and corpses washing up where athletes compete, the country having to rely on unpaid and disgruntle officers to protect the athletes, and rampant poverty in the city leading to crime from the lower population on the athletes. Late in July, New Zealand athlete, Jason Lee, kidnapped by men dressed as officers and forced to go to multiple ATMs for his own ransom. Oh, and there is a little known, not much media covered disease called Zika. And when I say “not much media covered” I really mean covered as much as Trump over the past year. The only “normal” storyline in this Olympics is the doping scandals from Russia.
“Why do you go?” “You should protest and refuse to go to such a dangerous place” are said by people who read all these reports, but don’t understand the four year sacrifice that go into many of these athletes. Yes, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Rory McIlroy not going to the Olympics may be disappointed for us, but not for them whatsoever. Athletes like these three are not reliant on the Olympics to get their names and brand out to the public and play in a sport that hold their our tournaments and championships on higher levels than the Olympics. Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, along with every athlete outside the sports of basketball, tennis, golf, and soccer train solely to participate in the Olympic Games. To sit out the games would be to toss out years of intensive training for these games.
Now the opening ceremony was beautiful and not indicative of horrors right outside the stadium with the athletes for every nation participating walking out for the Parade of Nations, holding their flags and either their Olympic jackets or traditional clothing from their nations. For those athletes who do not succeed in medaling, the parade would probably be the highlight of their athletic careers. Still, this Olympic feels like it is being balanced on a high wire rope without a safety net and the audience is watching and hoping for the worst case scenario to happen.
The US Men’s and Women’s basketball teams has opted to stay in a luxury cruise ship over the traditional Olympic Village, keeping them out of potential dangers that the country has to offer. And like the group of social media crusaders who wanted athletes to protest the games, people complained that the US were not embracing the Olympics. To that I say,would you rather stay in a cramped, dirty motel room with another person or stay on a clean, luxury boat for two weeks? People shouldn’t have to suffer because of the ineptitude of a government, no matter where they’re from.