OPINION: Have we ever seen a more worrying build up to an Olympic Games?

We have almost reached the end of the four-year-long road to Rio and the Olympic Games in Brazil.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 17th June 2016, 10:51 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:37 pm
12 June 2016.......       Alistair Brownlee celebrates his win of the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Leeds on the podium in Millenium Square.  Picture Tony Johnson
12 June 2016....... Alistair Brownlee celebrates his win of the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Leeds on the podium in Millenium Square. Picture Tony Johnson

What is always dubbed the greatest sporting spectacle in the world will finally get under way on 5th August.

For most people in Britain the games will not create the same excitement and fervour of four years ago when London and surrounding areas staged a magnificent Olympics.

Everything seemed to come together perfectly for the organisers as the capital put on a show to remember. But just a few weeks before the spectacular there were the usual doom and gloom merchants saying it would be a shambles and that England would not be capable of hosting a successful major showpiece.

The doom-mongers always come out of the woodwork before any big sporting tournament anywhere in the world. Remember the uncertainty ahead of the football World Cup in South Africa and the Commonwealth Games in India, both in 2010?

Or think back to 2004 when the Olympics went back home to Greece and how the sceptics didn’t think a so-called “small” country could host a major event. Despite a few hiccups they did... just like all the hosts of these events manage to do in the end.

Corruption often seems to come to the fore as reports highlight delays to building stadiums and facilities. In some countries human rights issues are also raised. The loss of green spaces is another common theme.

It’ll Be Alright On The Night is the well-known saying and it always seems to come true when these events finally come around.

However, the build-up to Rio seems to be different — and the worries more serious. The biggest issue, of course, is health and the Zika virus.

The mosquito-borne virus, which is linked to serious birth defects, has been declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization.

More than 220 leading physicians and scientists recently signed a petition arguing that the games should be postponed or switched to another location.

British long jumper Greg Rutherford’s actions, when it was reported that he has had his sperm frozen before going to Rio because of fears about the virus, illustrated how serious this health threat is being taken by those taking part.

I can’t remember if a major sporting spectacle has ever had such a serious health issue hanging over its head before.

Health worries don’t end with the Zika virus either as Rio’s waterways are reportedly often of raw sewage and sometimes dead fish. Politicians and businessmen have been involved in corruption allegations and this has led to major street protests — not helped by the country going through its worst recession.

In fact, it could be argued that Brazil is a country in chaos. It has had four health ministers, for example, in the past year.

Can it cope with the estimated 500,000 visitors and athletes? Well, it hosted a successful World Cup two years ago and it has already held the annual carnival, which attracted thousands.

The problems of millions of people living in abject, poor conditions on the favela on the outskirts of Rio were well highlighted two years ago in the build-up to the World Cup.

Little, if anything, has changed for the better in this massive shanty-town sprawl since. Its unhealthy atmosphere mirrors the concerns for these Olympics. I hope they are proved unfounded.