Brazil has been bracing for the Olympics seemingly all summer, and with less than 48 hours to go before the Opening Ceremony, numerous concerns – from Zika to pollution to potential terrorist attacks – are on the minds of many in Rio.
But, much like the pomp and circumstance surrounding every Olympics, the sky-is-falling narrative may be a tad overblown.
“We’ve done these Olympics before, where there’s always everybody trying to say the world’s falling apart and this is going to go wrong and that’s going to go wrong – and there’s that usual chatter,” Yahoo! Sports executive producer Alan Springer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “But the reality is, it’s Brazil. What I mean by that is there’s a certain level of standards for certain structures and traffic and things that you expect anyway. We had this two years ago when we came down here for the World Cup. If you’re going to go three miles, it could literally take you an hour. You have to plan for traffic and buses and everything. If you want to stay safe, you don’t go into the favelas. It’s just normal, common sense stuff if you come to a place like Rio, but nothing out of the ordinary as far as Olympics.”
Springer would rather tell that narrative, which he feels is more accurate than the doom-and-gloom of the past few months.
“One of my goals was to come down here and to kind of quiet a lot of those myths that the world is falling apart down here,” he said. “It’s not. It’s your typical pre-Olympic chatter. You have over 4,000 members of the media here with four days before the Opening Ceremonies. Now we’re down to the final 48 hours and we’re just kind of looking for the stories. No, the sky is not falling down here. It’s your typical Olympic set-up. Other than the traffic and long lines for the media venues, everything’s been pretty smooth.”
And yet, many Brazilians are not happy to be hosting the Games – and for good reason.
“There’s a human-rights group fighting on behalf of the people,” Springer said. “There’s a lot of stories where you’ll find (people’s) lives have been uprooted and kind of moved and quoted in the story as destroyed because of the Olympic movement. We found two people, (including) a girl who was living in a favela right by where the Opening Ceremony was going to be held, the Olympic Stadium, and her entire favela was torn down and rebuilt for a middle-class neighborhood because the IOC wanted to show the beauty of Rio. The great part of our story is the beauty of Rio is the favelas. It is the lower-class families, it is the hard-working people. I mean, the people are the community, the Portuguese-speaking community – they’re very great people. They’re very warm. They’re very opening to you to show you around and show you where they live. But they’re not as welcoming of the Games because – like we saw in Sochi and a bunch of other places – we shouldn’t be spending billions of dollars to bring Games here to showcase the rich of the IOC; you should be putting that money back in the infrastructure of the favelas and the school systems and the housing and everything here.
“So we’re kind of in a bubble,” Springer continued. “They call it the Olympic Bubble because the people that are working here, the Brazilians, are all volunteers, and there’s 20,000 of them. They walk around in the same yellow polo shirts and they are very accommodating and they smile and they want you to see the best of Brazil. But if you go off the beaten path – which is where I like to find my stories – you will find the majority of the community around here is not excited that we’re here. But you won’t see any of that in the coverage because most people in the media are kind of isolated.”
Springer also said there’s a strong military presence in Brazil.
“I have not felt unsafe at any point that we’ve been here,” he said. “I try to go outside the comfort zone because that’s kind of the stories that I tell. But when you flip on the TV Friday night and you see (the coverage) for the next couple weeks, you probably won’t see a lot of that. I’m not saying that it’s not there, but inside the Olympic Bubble, once the lights go on and the cauldron is lit, everything seems to run smoothly, and all this stuff will be forgotten once we leave here.”