The Rio Olympics commence on August 5, which means Brazil has less than 60 days before the world descends on the country that is currently engulfed in political turmoil. Former President Dilma Rousseff is fighting her impeachment, the nation’s economy has plummeted over the last five years, and the ongoing Zika outbreak continues to run rampant.
The old adage “There’s no time like the present” simply doesn’t hold true for Brazil accommodating the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Host city Rio de Janeiro is scrambling to finish various construction projects that must be completed before the Games begin. While the existing stadiums that only needed renovated or modified for the Games and the new golf course have largely been finished, the primary issue is the city’s subway system.
“The schedule is tight, but we have 8,000 people working during the days and nights,” Brazil Secretary of Transportation Rodrigo Vieira told CNN. “We are completely sure that everything will be done by August 1.”
That gives workers just four days of leeway before trains need to be in motion.
Rio is home to some of the worst traffic congestion on planet Earth. In fact, according to TomTom’s annual Traffic Index, Rio’s streets are the second-most congested motorways behind only Mexico City.
Rio’s congestion level is rated at 51 percent. For reference to anyone that’s been to Los Angeles, the rating for the City of Angels is just 39 percent.
Combine the expected 480,000 tourists, thousands of media personnel, and the 10,000 athletes plus their staffs, Rio’s already nightmarish traffic will only worsen. Instead of visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue, many motorists will likely be looking up at the iconic sculpture asking for an open road, or perhaps using his name in vain.
Brazil’s answer for the aboveground horror is to send travelers underground and onto the subway. But the 10-mile expansion to connect Ipanema to Barra da Tijuca remains a work in progress.
Along with Zika, some would-be Olympic visitors and athletes are rightfully concerned with the threat of violence and crime. Yahoo Sports recently reported that a 16-year-old girl from a slum was raped outside an Olympic venue, two athletes visiting the city were robbed at gunpoint, and another 17-year-old woman was shot on her way to the airport.
Brazil is the murder capital of the world, and while Rio is safer than other regions of the country, apprehensions from foreigners remain. The dismal economy has made people desperate according to reports, and murders in Rio are up 15 percent in the first four months of 2016 compared to 2015.
Brazil plans to deploy 85,000 police and soldiers to Rio to safeguard the Olympics during the 16-day tournament. Regardless, some athletes have already said they will not attend.
In basketball, two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry is bypassing the competition to rest after a lengthy season. Golf superstar Adam Scott is also not traveling to Rio.
And this week, pregnant NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie understandably announced she would not be going to Brazil on fears of Zika.