Monday, August 22, 2016

Rio 2016: It Was All For The Best.

The soul of a nation thrives on its ability to bring the world together and host the biggest events and deliver promises of legacies that will go on for countles generations. Many of those events happen in the world of sport. The city of Rio de Janeiro in the state of Rio de Janeiro in the Federal Republic of Brazil, one of the vulnerable flowers of the American supercontinent that has seen prosperity and opportunity to the north, and hopelessness, poverty and uncertainty in the south, had just completed hosting the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, Rio 2016.

Dogged by the Zika Virus, volunteer turnover, security breaches, empty seats at venues due to high ticket prices, and the big elephant smoking in the back room of the boys room—doping—the Rio Olympics were catastrophic in terms of preparation, safety, and health. The Athletes Village was unlivable. The illnesses contracted by many top superstars saw their dreams at Olympic glory dashed. And the saga of the Russian Federation—published in permanent record by the world's media forces of the West and the East—had resulted in one of the own summoned to lead the Athletes Commission and issue a challenge to the authority of the IOC.

Indeed, the saga of doping at the Olympics persisted, with a number of athletes from former Soviet republics be stripped of the medals and suspended from the games. One wrestler from India never got a chance to compete due its own Anti-Doping Agency trying to evade to long arm of WADA and CAS. Another of its own, a cyclist from Brazil, paid the price for getting an edge by all means necessary.

To be fair, it should be noted that if you come from a country with little to no chance of medaling, and you don't have proper training facilities or a program that develops your talent, if you don't have a program that will allow you to be faster, higher, and stronger naturally through hard work, dedication and sacrifice, you will be pressured by coaches, by government officials, by your peers to cheat to win. It then becomes a race between the dopers and those who develop ways to detect new methods to gain an unfair advantage.

But when a country is slapped with medal strippings, bans, suspensions and name shaming and name outing then and now, it will have to resort to pulling the oldest trick in the book-the politics card, to make an incorrect, naive assumption that a new world order from the West is deliberately seeking to destroy the said country for good in the sporting arena.

Russia is that country, and it chooses to ignore that as the Soviet Union, its state-sanctioned doping programs are the reason why it had so many medals to its name for decades. Those hauls were not accidental. They were all fueled by sports science and by technological advances that would make them invincible against the West. It was all for a purpose. It was all for the best. Russia eventually finished fourth in the medal count in spite of its plight.

And who finished first? None other than the United States of America. With 46 gold medals, 37 silver medals and 38 bronze medals, Team USA dominated all categories: gold, silver, bronze and total. And it could have won more, had it not been for the shortcoming of USA men's water polo, the cursed USA men's 4 x 100 meter relay team in athletics, and the USA women's soccer team, whose disgraceful performance against silver medalists Sweden brought out the worst in now-disgraced goalkeeper Hope Solo, a longtime servant to the sport who failed in what will likely be her final Olympic.

There are heroes who emerged from the Games. The king of the pool, Michael Phelps. The Jamaican admiral of the sprint night battles, Usain St. Leo Bolt of Trelawny. The heroine of American gymnastics, Simone Biles. The USA men's and women's basketball teams, entertaining their fans in the offseason. Britain's distance running hero, Mo Farah, completing his double-double while Bolt completed his triple-triple. And who can forget the Prince of Barcelona, Neymar Jr., whose game-winning penalty kick at the Maracana restored the nation's trust in its love for football and its national team (though the same can't be said of Marta, Cristiane and As Canarinhas)?

There have been highs, and there have been lows. There have been broken hearts, satisfied souls, promises made and proposals accepted. Love and sports have been the key facet of Rio 2016 despite all the adversity that has come its way.  Now, a new chapter begins to the East, or rather, across the Pacific, westward across the international date line to the heart of East Asian Strength, the center of Japan, the heart of the Rising Sun, Tokyo!

A city built on centuries of tradition, culture, excellence. A city that went through hell decades ago only to rise from the ashes and become faster, higher and stronger in its growth and progressiveness. It will have been 14 Olympiads since Japan's City of the Future hosted the Summer Olympics, back in 1964, nearly two decades after the war when it outbid the unlikeliest of cities in Detroit to bear the weight of hosting the world's premier sporting event. In the year 2020, an auspicious year, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will be returning to Tokyo, under the watchful eye of the great snow-capped sentinel known as Mt. Fuji, a landmark of the nation that is the nation's gateway to heaven and the stars above.

And what after that? There are four cities that are bidding for the right to host the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad. In the history of the Games, as of now, there have been only two cities to have had a financially successful Olympics. The first is Barcelona, where the miracle of the Dream Team happened. Barcelona, home to the nation's most famous basilica, La Sagrada Familia, the Holy Family. Barcelona, who flagship team, FC Barcelona, is a worldwide name in Basketball and Football. A champion of its nation. A champion of the continent. A champions of the world. The home of Lionel Messi. Barcelona, whose Games took place in a watershed year: 1992, the year Bill Clinton began his presidency.

The other city? Los Angeles, one of the entertainment capitals of the world, if not, the preeminent. A city that has hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984, the latter being financially successful and whose legacy is kept through the LA84 Foundation. Los Angeles, who answered the call for America when Boston could not. Los Angeles, whose infrastructure from 1932 and 1984 will be integrated for 2024, with minor adjustments and additions. Los Angeles, a city of America build to host the Olympics and Special Olympics.

Los Angeles hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics after Tokyo will be their first in 10 cycles and will most likely be their last for a while. It will become just the second city in the world to host three Summer Olympics. The USA has hosted many sporting events before and with the right price points to please the fans, there will not be a single seat left in the house.

In their way stand three worthy cities: Rome, Paris and Budapest. A sentimental choice, Budapest would be a brave decision, not unlike Istanbul or Moscow, but it is an unlikely choice to host the Games. Rome would be a sentimental choice, as this would be their second time hosting the Olympics. The biggest competition, however, would be Paris, and this would be their third Olympics should they be the ones hosting. They have never hosted the Games since 1924, and they have venues already in place that can host a number of events.

There two Achilles Heels to all three bids from Europe. Firstly, the last European Games were held in London, in 2012, and sending the Games back to Europe after just three cycles would be too close. Secondly, the threat of terrorism hinders the chances, with all three cities so close to the Middle East.

Paris, as a city, and France as a nation, have gone through some of its toughest times with terrorist attacks in the French capital and in the resort town of Nice. The decision of the IOC to put the youth of the world so close to the dangers in Iraq, Syria and the Levant and the Arab world in particular cannot go unnoticed. Thus, if the Olympic Gods were doing it right, if the Fates are correct, if there is justice to the future of the Olympics, the next games after Tokyo will be in Los Angeles.

Still, if Baron Pierre de Coubertin was seeing how the Olympic Movement has transformed itself, he would be saddened by how it has sold itself out.

Money! Greed! Globalism! Capitalism! Doping! Empty seats! Zika! Corruption! Pressure! Social media! More empty seats! Disorganization! Loans in arrears! Maxxed out credit cards. Default! Volunteer turnover! Professionalism! Shamateurism! Racism! Sexism! Bigotry! The almighty dollar! The not-so-mighty euro! Did I mention empty seats?

In short, if Baron de Coubertin was seeing how Rio 2016 became a living example of the Olympic Movement cannibalizing itself, his tears would fill all the oceans of the world. In the end, he can only look on and accept that the future may not be bright now, but down the road, with lessons learned, and tenacity and resiliency without compromise, it really was all for the best.

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