Alex Wolff: Something Reassuring About The Brazilians

By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about Rio, and almost all of it, if not all of it, has been negative. Well, with the Olympics almost upon us, why not ask someone who’s there to comment on what’s real, what isn’t, and what’s somewhere in between.

CBS Sports Radio did just that.

“Well, the transportation is a little pokey, which you expect,” Sports Illustrated’s Alex Wolff told Moose & Maggie, who were filling in as hosts of Gio and Jones. “Everybody said it would be bad up through the Opening Ceremony and then maybe once the Games begin a lot of Rio natives will vacate and it should get better. But this city just is not made for mass transport. It hasn’t been a nightmare, but it isn’t easy. I think the mood here, though, is a pretty upbeat one. There’s something reassuring about the Brazilians. Maybe this is because the last Olympics was at Sochi and everybody had a scowl on their face. So if the Games are to be redeemed, I think the spirit of the Brazilian people are going to have something to do with it.”

Some media members, however, have griped about Olympic accommodations, both for the athletes and for those covering the Games.

“The organizing committee always said this was going to be a bare-bones Games,” Wolff said. “They kept cutting back the budget again and again. There’s no excuse, though, for the athlete’s village to be anything but first-class. About 15 months ago when I was down here, I had a tour of (the village). Imagine luxury condos being marketed in the states. That’s what they were trying to do. A bunch of delegation members ran stress test where they’re flushing a bunch of toilets at the same time, and water started coming down the walls. That’s something of an indictment. This is a country that got the Games when they were on a high six-and-a-half years ago. They were surfing this swell tide of amazingly high oil prices and feeling really good about themselves, the economy was booming and it’s just a comedown. It’s bad luck. Whether it’s political corruption or corruption in the construction industry that led to the shoddy building, this is what happens when you peel back a layer. I think a lot of people are going to be holding their breath. The symbolism Friday night in the Opening Ceremony, if they can pull that thing off, I think will be bigger than any Opening Ceremony that I can remember. If they can somehow get through Friday night without something major glitching up, you could see the mood change.”

It is possible, of course, that many of the doom-and-gloom reports have been overblown. After all, Brazil hosted the World Cup just two years ago and made it through all right.

At the same time, though, there’s a lot at stake for Brazil.

“It’s the national pride,” Wolff said. “They’ve been very publicly beaten up because of their political dysfunction. There will not be their impeached president (Dilma Rousseff) in Maracana Stadium for the Opening Ceremony, as she’s sort of waiting for her trial, which will take place literally days after the cauldron is extinguished. They’ve been kind of humiliated on the world stage. I think the one thing that they can hope for – and this happened in Sochi and it happened in Athens and so many other places – is we in the media stop complaining about cold coffee about 24 hours in. Suddenly we’re too busy to dwell on that and there are these bigger human stories to write about. The problem here is once the circus leaves town, I think – more so than in any other recent Olympic host city – it’s just going to be a clean-up job. The legacy promises, particularly the one about cleaning up the bay, are just not going to be met. There’s some transportation and infrastructure things that will make a difference in some people’s lives, but the scale in which people expected improvement, it’s nowhere close to what the reality is going to be.”

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