Brazil proves the skeptics wrong as host of Olympics

For 16 days, we watched with bated breath as some 1,400 athletes from around the world participated in the XXXI Olympiad in Brazil.

Why the bated breath? Because of our skepticism about Brazil’s ability to keep the athletes and thousands of spectators safe from criminals, the Zika virus, bacterial infections stemming from polluted waterways and inadequate living accommodations at the Olympic Village.

But today, with the Games now in the history books, we readily admit that the first South American country to play host came through with flying colors.

Indeed, the only criminal incident that attracted international attention was triggered by U.S. Olympic swimmers attempting to cover up their atrocious behavior by claiming to be victims.

As we noted in an editorial at the start of the Olympics, Brazil was under immense pressure to prove its detractors wrong. But we also pointed out that the concerns of athletes and visitors demanded the attention of officials in Rio de Janeiro, the main site of the Games.

Here’s what we said, in part:

“From the Zika virus epidemic, to the political upheaval, to the high crime rate, to the threat of terrorist attacks and to the environmental concerns over the contaminated waterways of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been on the defensive for quite some time.”

We weren’t convinced that the economically challenged nation with a high poverty rate would be up to the task of hosting such a global event. Our skepticism was not unfounded, given that other wealthier, industrialized nations that put on the Olympics dealt with unexpected challenges that proved costly in the long run.

Brazil obviously was prepared to deal with any major issues that could undermine the Games. Here’s how the BBC answered the question “Has the Olympics been a success for Brazil?”:

“From a purely sporting perspective, Rio 2016 has been an extraordinarily successful Olympics Games.

“The sporting competition has been the highest standard in the pool, on the track and in the gym.

“There have been almost 100 world and Olympics records broken in what has, thus far, been a relatively drugs-free Games.”

The British broadcasting network also raised an issue that should concern the government of Brazil and the international community at large:

“... how many Brazilians were engaged by, or felt part of, the Olympics is much harder to judge.”

The empty seats in many of the stadiums were a clear indication that too many people couldn’t afford the ticket prices, or just didn’t feel any connection to a global event that they believe would do little to improve their miserable lives.


The big question, therefore, has to do with the future of the country: Was the Summer Olympics a financial boon to the poverty-ridden Third World nation, and if it was, will the people living in the slums of Rio and other population centers benefit?

It will take some time for the answer to become clear.

What doesn’t need time to be resolved is the behavior of American gold-medal swimmers Ryan Lochte, Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen, who claimed they were robbed at gunpoint by an individual in police uniform. They spun that tale in order to cover up an altercation with a gas station security guard.

The clash occurred after the swimmers broke down a bathroom door and urinated on the walls. They were drunk.

Lochte and his colleagues have apologized and paid for the damage after closed-circuit video showed they lied about the incident.

Lochte has appeared on American TV and admitted the wrongdoing, but what he and the three other so-called U.S. ambassadors to the Olympics need to do is apologize to the people of Brazil and the organizers of the XXXI Olympiad.

Imagine the uproar in this country had athletes from abroad claimed during the Games in Atlanta in 1984 that security personnel had robbed them at gunpoint – and then it turned out they had lied.

The situation involving Lochte and the others is even more egregious because they knew that the press and most Americans would be inclined to believe their yarn. After all, Rio’s reputation as a crime-ridden city is widespread.

No apology will erase the fact that the U.S. gold-medal swimmers have brought shame on this nation. They have earned the public’s repudiation.