The Rio Olympics will get underway tonight (Friday) with typical fanfare and fireworks a good two days after it actually got underway without any fanfare and fireworks.
No, I am not joking. The football matches are already on since Wednesday, but usually it is a tradition of the Olympics to have the inaugural ceremony after the Games have been technically inaugurated. And Rio is only sticking to it. But Rio is also set to blaze new trails, and this is the biggest Olympic Games ever, especially as reflected in the statistic that 30,000 journalists are out there covering it. The host city has ensured that there is an easy supply of what such a huge contingent of media personnel usually looks for: Controversies and scandals.
Ahead of the Games, most of the talk has been around Zika virus, crime in Brazil, pollution in Guanabara Bay, the alarming recession, the impeachment move against the President, the displacement of poor people to build facilities for the Games, and reading all those bitter and troubling reports has made some of us feel almost wistful for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The real point is that if something makes you look back fondly at an event that was organised and helmed by Suresh Kalmadi then you know you are looking at the pits.
The pollution in Guanabara Bay has been the biggest issue (“Rio 2016 water full of garbage, plastic bags, bottles, fridges and condoms”, “Olympians will literally be swimming in human crap, scientists say” are just two of the sample headlines) and so if they decide. last-minute, to shift the sailing events, we in Chennai can surely offer to host it on the Cooum and the competitors would be really grateful for it. That is how bad the situation is.
But it is also a fact that there are many misconceptions surrounding the Rio Games, one of which is of course the belief that Rio de Janeiro is the capital city of Brazil. This is totally wrong. The capital of Brazil is — you geography nuts would doubtless know — totally some other city.
Let us face it, all Olympics have had problems. But once the Games get going all these things will be forgotten and you can count on us journalists to focus on sporting events, especially the women’s beach volleyball. And looking at the attire of the competitors in this sport you will also probably wonder whether the Olympic motto has been modified to: shorter, lesser, hotter.
Another event that should get our undivided attention is the Modern Pentathlon, especially to figure out what exactly is that sport. Nobody really knows what events comprise Modern Pentathlon, and I suspect they just make them up on the fly. So it would seem are the rules and regulations of judo. The greatness of this popular Olympic sport is that even after watching a full bout you can still never tell with any amount of confidence as to who the winner is.
Rugby Sevens is being reintroduced in Rio Games (it was last played in the 1924 Games) based on its undoubted enormous popularity among the seven playing members of a team. Golf is another sport that is making a comeback to the Olympics after a gap of 112 years, and in a show of immense gratitude to the IOC for this gesture, many of the top golfers will not be seen in action.
Seriously, these golfers have said that the fear of Zika virus has forced them to stay back in their respective places, which we sincerely hope the ISIS terrorists will target at the earliest. Okay, that is an insensitive and cheap shot. But when top golfers get all snooty and make excuses and stay off from the Olympics, we really need to wonder whether we need golf at all. But even without this, we have to take a call on a sport that takes less energy to play than when one operates the telephone.
Now we get to the Indian participation, and as ever the nation has sent a team of eager and enthusiastic sportspersons, and, as ever, an even more eager and enthusiastic team of officials who can be counted to come back with a rich haul of foreign liquor and chocolates. The IOA president is N Ramchandran, the brother of N Srinivasan. This is much against the Lodha Committee recommendation that said: it is a conflict of interest for a former BCCI president to have a brother.
The Indian medal hopes rest on shooter Jitu Rai, badminton ace Saina Nehwal, archer Deepika Kumari, sundry wrestlers and boxers and the remarkable gymnast Deepa Karmakar. Deepa created history by becoming only the third woman in gymnastics to land the Produnova vault and the first ever Indian to know what Produnova vault is. There is also Abhinav Bhindra, the first ever individual gold medalist from India. Though he has announced his retirement, he has chosen to stay in the sport and lead India from the front by the common sense logic of being the country’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony.
Overall, the good news is that India is predicted to win a total of 8 medals at the Games. The bad news, however, is that the prediction has come from Goldman Sachs, the global Zika virus in the investment banking market.
Irrespective of how India’s performance is going to be at the Rio Games, I think we should all continue to support our sportspersons, and, who knows, with our sustained backing India can one day surely produce what we all truly dream of — an Olympics women’s beach volleyball team.