Image Credit: Gilberto Santa Rosa

Remember When The IOC Was Urged To Cancel The Rio Olympics? The Lesson We Should All Learn

Admittedly, I am not the biggest sports fan, but I love watching the Olympics.

Call me sentimental, but it is inspiring to me to see athletes from across the globe come together to compete on the world stage. I also love hearing their incredible stories of passion, dedication, and sacrifice.

However, during the weeks preceding the 2016 summer Olympics, I began noticing the proliferation of articles and think pieces in the media casting doubt on Rio’s ability to host the Games of the 31st Olympiad.

Scathing news reports began to rain down daily about how the city’s cauldron of social, economic, political, and environmental issues were at a boiling point that posed a grave danger to the well-being of the athletes and the attendees of the games.

As the Olympics drew closer, the headlines grew more alarming. For example:

Health Experts Call For Rio Olympics To Be Moved Over Zika Threat

Keep Your Mouth Closed: Aquatic Olympians Face Toxic Stew In Rio

Rio State Declares Financial Emergency, Requests Funding For Olympics

Body Parts Wash Ashore Next To Rio Olympic Venue

Brazil Urged To Cancel The Olympic Games

30 Days Out: The Concerns About Rio Olympics

While many former Olympic host cities have faced scrutiny - the gross levels of pollution during the 2008 games in Beijing, or the threat of terrorism that shadowed the 2012 games in London - the level of consternation directed toward the Rio games seemed particularly virulent.

If the media reports were to be believed, Rio was a third-world cesspool completely ill-equipped to host the Olympics, as well as ensure the personal safety of all who would attend.

In fact, some athletes chose not to attend over concerns about the games.

In defiance of the sea of criticism, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Brazil decided to proceed with the Rio games.

Fast forward to the date of this article, August 20th, 2016, the next-to-last day of competition for the Rio 2016 games.

Despite the opening ceremonies having the lowest tv ratings since the 1992 games in Barcelona, or the reports of low attendance at certain events, the 2016 Rio games were held without significant incident.

On the contrary, the world bore witness to many singular moments now etched in Olympic history.

The following are just a few:

  • Simone Manuel becoming the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual swimming event
  • Judoka Majlinda Kelmendi winning Kosovo’s first ever Olympic gold medal
  • The Fijian men’s rugby team winning not only Olympic gold — but the country’s first medal ever
  • Gold medalist Simone Biles christened as the newest United States superstar in gymnastics
  • Hoang Xuan Vinh winning Vietnam’s first gold medal in the men’s 10-meter air pistol event
  • For the first time in 112 years, golf returned as an Olympic event
  • The new nation state of South Sudan made its first Olympic appearance
  • Ibtihaj Muhammad of the U.S. became the first woman to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab
  • Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals, 23 of them gold
  • Usain Bolt “the world’s fastest man” retired from the Olympics with 9 gold medals
The list of exceptional moments from the 2016 Rio games is extensive, but just think — if the IOC, Brazil, and Rio had caved in to both internal challenges and outside pressure from the international community by canceling the games, none of these momentous occasions may have ever happened.

There’s an important lesson to be learned here for all of us.

Yes it is going to sound cliché, but it is still very true - when pursuing our dreams, goals, or passions, it behooves us to maintain steadfast faith in ourselves despite the criticism and doubt expressed by others.

The 2016 Rio games is this object lesson on a macro level.

Rio does indeed have many of the problems ascribed to it. The city is mired in poverty, scandal, crime, and pollution. It did need to ask for assistance from Brazil and the IOC.

Yet, despite the odds stacked against it, Rio hosted one of the most exciting and memorable Olympic games in history.

Now, when it comes to you or me as individuals, I think most of us would agree we are all striving toward something.

A dream. A goal. A desire.

Opposing us are voices — internal and external — rubbing our faces in all the reasons why we will not be successful.

“You are not educated enough.”

“You do not come from the right background.”

“You are too fat.”

“You are too thin.”

“You are too old.”

“You are too young”

“You are not pretty enough.”

“You are broke.”

“You do not have any talent.”

“You are the wrong sex, ethnicity, color.”

All these damn voices eagerly point out our — real or imagined — inadequacies, deficiencies, and flaws in order to deter us from achieving our dreams. Goals. Desires.

Let the Rio Olympic games be a shining example of the kind of extraordinary things that can happen when we choose to defy the critics and odds against us to go for the gold.


A proud blerd, Rod is a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan — and writes a lot about it. He is also the author of 200 Best Online Sci-Fi Short Films — a behemoth compilation of over 30 hours of terrific SF&F shorts. Explore more of his work by subscribing to his monthly newsletter here.