The Olympic stopwatch is already ticking for Rio 2016, but the odds are against success for Brazil.
With less than 100 days to go until the opening ceremony, the country is literally paralyzed and nearing a state of social collapse, with a deep funding crisis that could make it difficult to carry out basic functions and the government engulfed in a corruption scandal. By some measures, Brazil is in its worst recession since the 1930s. We don't even know who is going to be president in August – as you may have read here, these dire circumstances will likely lead to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.
Brazil is basically melting down, to be completely honest. To make matters worse, there's the Zika virus outbreak. In just over two months, Brazil recorded 91,387 probable cases, as well as a rise of chikungunya and dengue, diseases transmitted by the same mosquito. According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Rio de Janeiro holds the sad record, with 25,930 patients with a probable case of Zika.
Let me see, what else...
The corruption scandal implicated Odebrecht, a construction company tasked with half the building projects for the Games. Its owner, Marcelo Odebrecht, is now in prison. There are others too, like OAS. Eleven workers have been killed on these projects so far.
A bike lane was smashed by giant wave last week, killing two more people.
The opening of two Holiday Inn properties has been postponed until 2017 andnot even Donald Trump's fancy hotel is ready yet.
Brazil's government announced it is cutting the security budget by more than 33 percent.
Tickets sales are worryingly sluggish: last week, only 60% of tickets for Olympic events and 22% for Paralympic events had been sold.
Brazil's poster boy, swimming champion Cesar Cielo, failed to qualify for his home Olympics.
Oh, and in Guanabara Bay, where sailing events will be held, the water is dangerously polluted.
But don't you think for one second that the first-ever Olympic Games held on South American soil will not be great. On the contrary. When Brazilians succeed, it is against all odds. And there are plenty of reasons to believe that this carnival of unusual problems will be forgotten in August: Rio de Janeiro is already rehearsing, preparing, training, protesting, adapting, anticipating, grooming, hardening and willing to write one of the most important chapters in its history.
My optimism has its reasons. The city government’s monthly update on construction progress shows that 12 venues are now at least 95 percent complete. 95 percent! That is a lot better than London 2012, Beijing 2008 or Athens 2004 three months before their Games. Barra Olympic Park, which will be the heart of the Games with its nine venues hosting 16 Olympic and nine Paralympic sports, is now 98 percent complete. Test events have been held in more than a dozen sports from tennis to mountain biking.
After the doping scandals in China and Russia, there is also high hopes that the Games can reacquaint the world with sports' good side. Track star Usain Bolt of Jamaica will aim for Olympic golds in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100-meter relay. In swimming, Michael Phelps is back and will try to win five golds. Rio could also be the final chance of Olympic glory for icons like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah. If that is not enough, a refugee team will compete for the first time in the Olympics.
The Games could be a much needed morale booster for Brazilians and bring economic benefits to Rio, with unparalleled opportunities for businesses. From official sponsors like Nike (for the first time since 2000) to small hostels and trendy restaurants, the Olympic Games are an irresistible opportunity for brands to captivate consumers – official Rio 2016 products are expected to generate about $260 million in sales within Brazil alone, with 30 percent of these sales attributed to international visitors.
And we have done this before. In 2014, with only four months to the World Cup,furious demonstrators took the streets against FIFA in all major cities and gave second thoughts even to the most hopeful and confident Brazilians. There were rumors that the US could take over hosting the tournament, in case of emergency. But besides a 7-1 loss against Germany, everything went more than fine.
That's our main reason for optimism this time – the German Olympic football team is not that good.
At least I hope. We Brazilians always hope.