The recent resignation of the head of the public authority coordinating Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Summer Games was an alarm bell for the International Olympic Committee, which already was worried that Brazil would have trouble getting everything built in time.
With the Opening Ceremonies only three years away, the two Olympic park complexes still are in embryo while the country is scrambling to prepare for next summer’s football World Cup.
While that daunting back-to-back double has been performed three times (by Mexico in 1968 and 1970, by West Germany in 1972 and 1974, and by the United States in 1994 and 1996), it’s far more challenging now, given the size of both the tournament and the Games.
The cost is staggering, with Brazil on the hook for more than $13 billion for the Cup and nearly $12 billion for infrastructure, telecommunications, energy, and security for the Olympics, and the public is up in arms about the government’s spending priorities.
While the IOC wanted to award the Olympics to South America, and while Rio staged a successful Pan Am Games in 2007, the Lords of the Rings should have recognized that Brazil already had a full plate when they gave Rio the nod in 2009.
“It is a task of great magnitude that lies ahead for the organizers,” the IOC said in February after its coordination commission made its fourth visit.
The organizing committee, whose original operating budget of $2.8 billion now is approaching $4 billion, acknowledged recently that it may need another $700 million in public cash. So when Marcio Fortes resigned as the Olympic authority’s chief, saying that it had lost its influence, it was a warning signal for the IOC, whose monitors will be in Rio for another look at the beginning of next month.
A rainbow and clouds
The kerfluffle over a Swedish high jumper’s rainbow fingernails at the World Track and Field Championships in Moscow was an indication that the controversy surrounding Russia’s new law against homosexual “propaganda” will only increase leading up to next winter’s Sochi Games. While Yelena Isinbayeva later blamed her imprecise English for her comments, their essence seemed clear. “We consider ourselves like normal, standard people,” the Olympic and global pole vault champion declared, saying that Emma Green-Tregaro’s overt support of gay rights was disrespectful to Russians. “We just live boys with women, girls with boys . . . it comes from the history.” Green-Tregaro, warned by the international federation that she could be violating the competition’s code of conduct, switched her fingernail colors to red “for love” for Saturday’s final. But US runner Nick Symmonds dedicated his medal in the 800 meters to his gay and lesbian friends, and other displays of support from the Americans and other teams will be likely in Sochi where, as circumstance has it, Isinbayeva will be ceremonial mayor of the athletes’ village as well as a relay torchbearer . . . While the Americans topped the track and field medal table at the global meet for the fifth straight time, they failed to at least tie for the most golds for the first time since the inaugural 1983 event, winning six to Russia’s seven, their fewest since 2001. The gilded shortfall came on the women’s side where the US claimed only two (Brianna Rollins in the 100-meter hurdles and three-timer Brittney Reese in the long jump) after winning six at the Olympics. The four men’s golds came from their Old Faithful events: LaShawn Merritt in the 400, David Oliver in the 110 hurdles, Ashton Eaton in the decathlon, and the 4 x 400 relay. The Yanks easily won the overall count with 25 to the hosts’ 17, making the podium in 22 of the 47 events.
Likely it was the timing of the championships, when many Muscovites have escaped to their country dachas to beat the heat, but the track and field meet was notable for the number of empty seats inside mammoth Luzhniki Stadium, even with capacity reduced to 35,000. While the venue was sold out for the finale, it was one-third empty on the first weekend. “I’m used to coming to the 100 final with the stadium rammed, just packed,” said Jamaican champ Usain Bolt. The Chinese, who will host the 2015 edition inside Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, will scale down the 80,000 seats to 54,000 . . . Bolt’s three golds in the 100, 200, and 4 x 100 relay brought him level with Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, and Allyson Felix for most in a career (eight). Had he not been disqualified for a false start in the 100 final in 2011, Bolt likely already would hold the record, which he plans on breaking in Beijing. Had Felix not torn her hamstring in the 200 final, she probably would have claimed her ninth and 10th golds. Without her, the US was shut out of the medals in that race for the first time since 1997 and was beaten by the Jamaicans in the 4 x 100 relay after coming in as defending champions and winning at the Olympics.
No sport turns the page as quickly after the Olympics as does gymnastics. Danell Leyva, who won bronze in the all-around in London, finished seventh at last weekend’s US championships in Hartford, while Kyla Ross, who was on the women’s gold-medal team, was beaten by Simone Biles, who was third in the juniors last year. Leyva still was named to the squad for the world meet in Belgium at the end of next month along with Games teammates Sam Mikulak (the new champ) and Jake Dalton plus Steven Legendre, Alexander Naddour, and Brandon Wynn. But Leyva withdrew on Monday with a shoulder injury. Ross and London teammate McKayla Maroney likely will be named to the women’s team along with Biles after their September camp in Houston. The rest of the Fierce Five — Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Jordyn Wieber — are sitting out the season . . . Miles Chamley-Watson made history by winning the foil event at the recent world fencing championships in Budapest, the first individual gold medal by a US competitor in any weapon in the event’s history. The British emigre and Penn State product, who lost his first match at the Olympics, joined London teammates Race Imboden, Alexander Massialas, and Gerek Meinhardt to win the team silver behind the Italians while the American women, anchored by Mariel Zagunis, collected a bronze in team sabre. The Russians impaled the rest of the planet, winning three golds and 11 medals.
Lots of experience
The 48-man invitation list for the US Olympic men’s ice hockey orientation camp next week in Arlington, Va., is loaded with star-spangled veterans. Sixteen of them, notably Patrick Kane, Jonathan Quick, and Phil Kessel, won silver medals in Vancouver while nine played for this year’s bronze-medal squad at the world championships. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will be assisted by Peter Laviolette, who was head man in 2006 and played for the 1988 and 1994 teams, as well as by Columbus coach Todd Richards and Tony Granato, who played on the 1988 team and is on the Pittsburgh staff . . . The US eights for next weekend’s world rowing championships in South Korea have been restocked since last year’s Games. Caroline Lind is the only holdover from the women’s entry that won the gold medal, while Ross James and Steve Kasprzyk are the only returning men from the boat that just missed bronze. The new lineups, stroked by Tom Peszek and Heidi Robbins, both have the goods, having swept last month’s Lucerne regatta where the field was global-strength. If the Americans hit the double in Chungju, it’ll be the first time they’ve ever managed it. Harvard grad Henrik Rummel is the only man back from the four that won bronze at the Games . . . The procession of boats that rowed past Harvard’s Newell Boathouse Saturday morning to honor the late Harry Parker included Olympians from every Games since 1956. Parker, who placed fifth in the single in 1960, went on to coach US crews at half a dozen Olympics. Don Spero, who followed him as the American sculler in 1964, said Parker took one glance at him from a distance in Tokyo, deduced that Spero looked uncomfortable, and advised him to move his footboard slightly toward the bow. “I did that and everything was fine,” recalled Spero, who made the final and won the world title two years later, beating three-time Olympic champ Vyacheslav Ivanov, who also came to Newell to honor Parker. “I thought, ‘I just learned what a superb coach does.’ ”
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.