A million people in the street railing against the government in more than 100 Brazilian cities? Not exactly what the International Olympic Committee envisioned when it awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro. But that’s the unsettling reality, with the Games now three summers away.
What began in Sao Paulo as a protest against transit fare hikes has become a widespread outpouring of anger and disgust over high taxes and corrupt politicians who are spending an estimated $30 billion on next year’s soccer World Cup and the Olympics at the expense of housing, health, and education.
While the IOC said that it is “fully supportive of peaceful protest” while pointing out the Games’ benefits to city and country, political turmoil is the last thing the Lausanne leadership wants at a time when organizers are racing against the clock to finish their massive to-do list.
Meanwhile, Istanbul, which already was a long shot to host the 2020 Summer Games, hasn’t been helped by the government crackdown on protesters, which continued last weekend with tear gas and rubber bullets.
There is increasing dissatisfaction with Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics say is behaving like a sultan in a country that prides itself on being a modern secular state bridging East and West, which has been one of the bid committee’s main selling points to IOC voters.
Of more concern to some members is that the demonstrations, which police have been brutally breaking up, were provoked by the plan to build a shopping mall at Gezi Park.
Given the large-scale infrastructure and venue projects that will be required if Turkey gets the Games, the sitdown by environmentalists could be a prelude to seven years of discontent and disruption.
That prospect alone could prompt the Lords of the Rings to choose either Tokyo or Madrid when they vote in Buenos Aires in September.
Pass or play in 2024?
After its last two host candidates (Chicago and New York) were smacked down abruptly, the US Olympic Committee is still showing the caution flag for 2024. The committee remains in quiet discussions with more than 10 cities that it won’t name, hoping to narrow the field to two or three by year’s end. That’s assuming the USOC even decides to enter the race, which is far from certain. Twice burned, thrice shy . . . A dozen members of the US women’s ice hockey team that collected a silver medal in Vancouver made the 25-player core squad for Sochi that was announced Monday after 41 candidates tried out at a weeklong camp in Lake Placid. Most notable is 31-year-old forward Julie Chu, who’d be competing in her fourth Games and who’s nearly twice as old as Missouri high schooler Jincy Dunne. Five Massachusetts natives are on the list: Molly Schaus (Natick), Kacey Bellamy (Westfield), Michelle Picard (Taunton), Alex Carpenter (North Reading), and Meghan Duggan (Danvers). Harvard’s Katey Stone, who’ll coach the squad, has five present or former skaters in contention: Chu, Picard, Josephine Pucci, Kate Buesser, and Lyndsey Fry. The hopefuls will go into residency in September and train primarily at The Edge Sports Center in Bedford. The final 21-player roster will be announced in late December . . . While it’s still undecided whether NHL players will compete in the Olympic tournament in Sochi, USA Hockey will name its coach Saturday. The names most frequently bandied about are Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma, Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette, and John Tortorella, who was fired by the Rangers but is expected to be named Canucks coach Tuesday. There has been little mention of Ron Wilson, who guided the 2010 squad to a surprise silver medal, or Joe Sacco, who directed the Americans to their first medal in nine years at this year’s world tournament.
Coming on fast
A quartet of fresh female faces made the American team for this summer’s World Track and Field Championships in Moscow. LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan beat Olympic champion Allyson Felix in the 200 to become the first woman to win both the NCAA and US crowns in the same season since Evelyn Ashford in 1978, while Oregon’s English Gardner was the first to do it in the 100 since Carlette Guidry in 1991. Clemson’s Brianna Rollins (12.26) broke Gail Devers’s 2000 domestic record in the 100 hurdles, while Mary Cain, 17, became the youngest runner ever to make a global team by placing second in the 1,500. “I just really wanted to get a uniform,” remarked the Bronxville, N.Y., native, who still has a year left in high school . . . Adam Nelson finally received his Olympic shot put gold medal from Athens during a one-man ceremony at the trials and got to take a victory lap with his two daughters. “Better late than never,” observed the 37-year-old Dartmouth graduate, who recently was upgraded after Ukrainian victor Yuriy Bilonog was disqualified in the wake of a retest of his 2004 sample that came up positive for steroids. “The way I look at it is, I’ve got the rest of my life to be the gold medalist.” . . . Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin are the marquee names among more than 30 Olympic veterans who’ll be at this week’s Indianapolis trials that will determine the team for this summer’s World Swimming Championships in Barcelona. Half a dozen of their fellow gold medalists will be in the chase: Nathan Adrian, Tyler Clary, Matt Grevers, Katie Ledecky, Allison Schmitt, and Dana Vollmer.
She was real thing
Esther Williams, who died recently at 91, will be remembered as the country’s aquacade queen, but if World War II hadn’t wiped out the 1940 Games, she likely would have been an Olympic swimming champion as well. Williams came into that year as national champion in the 100-meter freestyle and breaststroke but turned pro after the Games, originally scheduled for Tokyo and then Helsinki, were canceled. She ended up as Hollywood’s iconic bathing beauty, making more than two dozen films . . . Elle Logan, who won her second gold medal with the US women’s eight last summer, returned to the Eton Dorney course last week to collect her ticket in the single for this summer’s World Rowing Championships in South Korea. The native of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, who was last at the midway point, ended up third to confirm her spot. The other American entries — scullers John Graves and Hugh McAdam and the lightweight double of Peter Alter and Colin Ethridge — needed to place in the top four but didn’t reach the final . . . Elena Pirozhkova, the Greenfield resident and Russian emigre who competed at the London Games, last weekend earned the right to defend her 63-kilogram crown at September’s World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, along with fellow medalists Alyssa Lampe (48 kg), Helen Maroulis (55 kg), and Adeline Gray (72 kg). Collecting a return ticket as well was defending men’s freestyle champion Jordan Burroughs (74 kg), who’ll be accompanied by fellow Olympians Tervel Dlagnev (120 kg) and Spenser Mango (55 kg), and Justin Lester (66 kg) from the greco side.
Water polo slide
The US women’s four-year reign as World League water polo champions came to an end in Beijing’s technicolor Water Cube, where the Chinese claimed their first crown ahead of the Russians while the Americans, who’d won six of the previous seven titles, finished third. The US males, who were bidding for their first medal in five years in their tournament in Russia, just missed the bronze, falling to Montenegro on a shootout. The Yanks had company; none of last year’s medalists made the podium as the Serbs blew away the Hungarians for their seventh title . . . April Ross and Jennifer Kessy will be looking to reclaim their crown at next week’s World Beach Volleyball Championships in Poland, where Chinese top seeds Xue Chen and Zhang Xi will bid to become the first women’s champions not from the US or Brazil. While Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego are favored to repeat on the men’s side, the Americans have a chance to win two medals for the first time since the inaugural 1997 tournament behind former champ Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal and Jacob Gibb and Casey Patterson.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.