A Prelude to the Olympics Opening Ceremony

This is the gold medal performance we’re looking for.

Brian Godfrey/Flickr

As anticipation grows for tonight’s Opening Ceremonies to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio—and what is sure to be a spectacular pageantry of color and emotions and excitement—it’s difficult not to keep our eyes open to the reality of staging the event in a country where many things have not been improved as expected.

Sports is a relatively minor thing compared to the living conditions and the economic realities of Brazilians. But sports is what draws us to Rio, so we must comment on it, too.

Again, in the grand scheme of things, having the Olympic golf course overrun by sloths, crocodiles and what are being called the world’s largest rodents is nothing compared to day-to-day life for a once-thriving South American economy that now is in ruins. It seems difficult to fathom that the benefits from staging the Olympics can dramatically change the landscape in Rio.

Tonight’s Opening Ceremonies will start the spin toward that optimism even if real-life drama continues to upstage the Games.

Early Friday, Rio police arrested a Moroccan Olympic boxer on charges he allegedly sexually assaulted two Brazilian women on Wednesday. Under Brazilian law, he can be held for 15 days or longer while officials conduct an investigation.

We’ve all heard that some of the athlete accommodations are not even completed (and certainly nowhere near as nice as the luxury cruise ship the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams are staying on during the Games). Now there is this report from Smithsonian.com that more than “1,500 spacious and modern apartments” for journalists have been constructed on the grounds of what once was a mass grave for slaves. We’ll take the cruise ship. Or the half-finished housing.

Concerns are so great for security that the United States has assigned more than 1,000 spies, from law enforcement and special operations, to be at the Games, according to NBC News, which got access to a classified report that said all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies are part of the effort.

That’s the underbelly of the Olympics we don’t think about as we watch the remarkable efforts and achievements of athletes from all nations compete for their once-in-a-lifetime dream. We all need some positive, heart-warming stories in these times of uncertainty so let’s follow U.S. Olympic rower Megan Kalmoe’s lead and enjoy those over the next two weeks. But let’s also hope for gold medal-winning performances for the citizens of Brazil to come out the other side with living conditions that get addressed and improved on after the spotlight fades from their beautiful country.

Follow us on Twitter @therelishsports to chat all things Olympics during tonight’s Opening Ceremonies.

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