RIO DE JANEIRO – Things you don’t know about Brazil until you visit:
Pool water might turn pea-soup green. The ocean is a toilet not just for fish, but for people. The Mad Max movies are documentaries about Brazilian bus drivers. And in Rio, you don’t have to go to bad neighborhoods to get robbed. The bad guys come to you.
The Rio Games have been odd at best, dangerous at worst, but it would be Ugly Americanism of the first order to pretend that these problems are unique. Atlanta held the worst logistical Olympics ever, and some areas of Chicago make Copacabana Beach look like Sanibel.
What’s different about these Games is the way the “organizers’’ react to problems.
These are the “Don’t Blame It On Rio’’ Olympics.
One Rio organizer, explaining the diving pool turning sci-fi ooze green, said: “Chemistry is not an exact science.’’
There was a time when incompetent officials and media handlers would try to bend the truth in their favor. That time is not now.
Now incompetent officials and media handlers say the opposite of the truth, hoping a certain percentage of the population is dumb enough to believe them. The worst part of that strategy is that it sometimes works.
But probably not this time: When news circulated that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte had been robbed at a party in Rio, the International Olympic Committee denied the story. Even as Lochte’s mother was confirming it.
When denying the story backfired, Rio “organizers’’ argued that Lochte should not have been out late. Which makes sense. Why would a young, famous, single athlete whose competition was over want to hang out with beautiful people in Rio de Janeiro? There oughta be a law against that sort of behavior.
(Leave it to Lochte to react to a gun in his face and a demand for his money by saying, “Whatever.’’ Spicoli lives.)
Which brings us to Sunday night and perhaps the premier event of the Olympics, at least in terms of worldwide interest. Usain Bolt entered Olympic Stadium to loud cheers. American Justin Gatlin, who has twice served suspensions for taking banned substances, heard loud jeers.
Gatlin admitted he heard them, and that he knew what they meant, even if he disagreed with the sentiment. Bolt admitted he heard them.
Here’s what a Rio spokesperson said about them on Monday: “Not all the crowd were booing for Mr. Gatlin’s past, they were booing because they had a favorite for the night.’’
This is, again, the opposite of the truth.
Calling these lies doesn’t do justice to the silliness and arrogance of these statements. Lies can sometimes be harmless or even polite. These aren’t lies in the sense that they are an alteration of the truth; they are cynical dismissal of the truth as irrelevant.
This is not surprising if you’ve ever seen an IOC member up close. Many of them look like Bond villains. They make you wonder if the next sport to be added to the Olympics will be cat-stroking.
It’s hard work, distracting from the entertainment on display in the venues. Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, a successful incorporation of golf and rugby, a photogenic city — this has been a compelling Olympics, on television.
On the ground it’s such a mess that when seven people were injured in Olympic Park on Monday, no one was surprised.
A large camera was not secured properly to a wire. The camera fell, gravity pulling it rapidly toward Earth. Or something like that.
We’d have a better explanation if physics were an exact science.