One of these days, the Olympics might actually be as bad as everyone fears. The venues will be as incomplete as predicted. The security as ill-prepared as experts believed. The environment as toxic as all the hand-wringers had forecast. And the sad juxtaposition of billions spent to stage an athletic carnival against a landscape of abject need will be just as jarring as you expected.
That never quite happens. The dire prelude is a traditional part of the more recent Games. And, yet, they always seem to go on without it all collapsing beneath the absurd weight of this show. The Olympics, they do endure.
One day, maybe, the worst will be realized. If that day is now, well, look out below. For the worst in Rio would be the athletic equivalent of a civilization-ending meteor strike.
By all accounts, they are going ahead with the Rio Olympics – with or without Russians who get their steroids through Putincare, with or without any golfer you’ve ever heard of, with or without tankers of antibiotics awaiting offshore, political/economic stability in the host country or a sense that holding these Games in this place was an Onion parody that was mistakenly left in the IOC’s in-box.
The Opening Ceremonies are Friday, where, the official mascot of these Rio games will cavort with the athletes of the world. And, no, that mascot is not Zeke, the mischievous mosquito.
Lest we have forgotten, we live in a former Olympic host city which makes us, willingly or not, a part of the family. And, yet, I sense a great indifference sweeping both sides of I-285. That is to be expected when there is as much trepidation as anticipation preceding the torch lighting.
The thing about the Olympics is that the athletes always manage to rescue some glory from the setting. They remain stronger than all the accumulated doubts surrounding any of the Games.
That will be the case again in Brazil, if they don’t trip over a dismembered cartel victim at the finish line or are deafened by NBC’s constant pounding on the drums of jingoism.
Will we watch to see gymnast Simone Biles fly or swimmer Katie Ledecky lap the world or Usain Bolt make one more breathtaking dash? (One of my personal favorite Olympic activities is watching the U.S. men’s basketball team in the hope it will actually lose a game – be that treason or not).
Or, will we watch if for darker reasons, in morbid anticipation of something going wrong, as it surely must in Rio?
But we will watch, won’t we?
The athletes will ride to the rescue as they always do, right?