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Rio's Mess: A Sign of Boston's Success in the Upheaval of its Bid for the 2024 Olympics

The Rio Olympic games kicked off late last week, and I think everyone can agree that the time leading up to the games as well as the current state of events in Rio has been -- and still is -- an absolute mess. Oversights and carelessness by the International Olympic Committee has led to unsafe and downright pathetic conditions, not only for the athletes participating in the Olympic games, but also for the hordes of spectators who made their way to Rio to observe the worldwide competition that only happens every four years. 

Much of the onus of this year's games does fall on the city: the unpreparedness of the athlete housing and of certain areas of competition, the dangerous and septic condition of the water, and the failure to contain and combat Zika virus. But a good portion of the responsibility also falls on the IOC, as they have valued profit over the safety of the world's greatest athletes; they have ignored some insurmountable issues with the mindset that the show must go on, in Rio.

Perhaps the atrocity leading up to the Rio Olympics has served some good to the city of Boston. You may be wondering, “how in the world can the absolute mess of this year’s summer games have anything to do with Beantown?” Well, it could have been an omen of things to come eight years down the road.

Now, I am well aware that this is a very presumptuous assertion, but think about it, eight years ago everyone probably thought Rio was going to be the perfect location. I am not saying that by 2024 Boston would have an epidemic in the form of a bug smaller than your pinky nail, or that it would have water that is so dirty that officials advise you to “not put your head under water.”

With that said, let’s take a look at the city’s plans for the games and compare them to this year’s mess. Although much of the disaster is currently being overshadowed by the competition, the issues within the Olympic Village still exist and are exacerbated by athletes inhabiting it. The Jamaicans arrived to unfinished rooms. There was a major flood in the Czech village. The poor Australians have had to deal with a myriad of different issues: disconnected fire alarms, failed plumbing, and a robbery of some athletes' Zika protective shirts and a laptop.

Australian Olympic Committee Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller went so far as to say, "I have never experienced a village in this state -- or lack of state -- of readiness at this point in time."

Some countries are refusing to move into the dorms that are housing athletes, citing the poor conditions. For example, the USA Men's Basketball team is staying on a luxury cruise liner. 

The Boston proposal suggested housing athletes in local college dorms, which is a good idea in theory. However, when you consider all of the summer programs that local universities host and the housing used by students over the summer months, it would severely complicate things for the universities.

Also, some of the athletes would have to live at BU, and isn’t that bad enough in itself?

Next, we can take a look at the infrastructure and the nightmare that has ensued. An expedited building timeline and an unprepared city has led to shoddy workmanship and carelessness along the way. A week ago, a boat ramp meant for the sailing events collapsed, just before the start of the games. On the first day of the games, the key was lost to one of the Olympic soccer stadiums and the gate had to be cut open in order for the teams to get on the field for training. The city of Rio has certainly not done its due diligence when it comes to overseeing a smooth running of the games.

I know, I know, we host the Boston Marathon each year and look how great that is for our city, right? But, that is an event that Boston has made great through trial and error; starting small, it grew into the event it is today. Nonetheless, even with some of the largest crowds of people, it pales in comparison to the scale of an event such as the Olympics.

I am not saying that Boston would have had all of these problems; honestly, it probably would have been fine in terms of contagious disease, clean water, and sound infrastructure. It is the vast influx of people combined with the pressure of completing new facilities in the greater Boston area that would likely culminate in disaster. This potential debacle seems even more probable when one considers the fact that we can barely run a public transit system smoothly (I’m looking at you MBTA). Despite the current excitement of Team USA leading the medal count and the heartwarming stories such as the first-ever Refugee team, there are still many issues present in Rio.

As if Boston's initial division of support for the Olympics wasn't enough, perhaps witnessing all that has gone wrong in Rio is the final reassuring nail in the coffin of Boston's Summer Olympic dreams.

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Katie McGirney