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The Rio all-season Olympic Games start today

August 5, 2016


Today (August 5) the so-called “Summer” Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will get underway. For the next 16 days, until August 21st, some 10,500 athletes (including 68 from British Columbia) will compete—against each other, against the clock and perhaps, for the first time, against event venues, where the quality of preparations (or lack thereof) could become factors for or against victory.

This year athletes will likewise be competing for the attention of audiences and media against the organizers of the Rio 2016 Olympics, who will be watched and judged to have won and lost on a day-by-day basis like never before.

Olympic torches of duct tape, tea candles and drumsticks?

At 4 p.m. Vancouver time the big gamble that is Rio 2016 Olympics will properly kick off with a four-hour opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracanã Stadium, located some 6 km from downtown Rio.

In keeping with the makeshift/make-do vibe that surrounds these first-ever Olympics in Latin America, organizers of the opening ceremonies have freely used the term “MacGyver-ing” in order to describe their efforts to put on a low-budget, highly creative spectacle to rival the special-effects laden affairs that opened previous summer games in London (2012), Beijing (2008) and Athens (2004).

To “MacGyver” means to improvise a physical solution to an immediate problem by repurposing whatever materials are at hand. The term refers to the title character of the 1980s TV series MacGyver—a mullet-haired secret agent whose signature skill was an encyclopedic scientific knowledge allowing him to cobble together improbably functional devices from found objects—a good example being the defibrillator he made on the spot from candlesticks, a microphone cord and a rubber mat, in the first season episode “The Enemy Within“.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, organizers of the Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremonies—including Fernando Meirelles, the Brazilian film director, whose credits include City of God—made repeated references to MacGyver, in order to emphasize how budgetary constraints pushed them to think inventively. As Daniela Thomas, another film director on the team, put it:

“Our budget was not on a par with expectations and we got used to this—makeshift improvising, being MacGyver. We have to do it with the resources we have but this is not a problem. Out of this MacGyver-ing came what was basically pure creativity.”

The results can’t be worse than the pure shmaltz that we’re used seeing at opening ceremonies.

Rio—less of a commercial and more of a human drama

Olympics of the last 20 years (at least) have developed into slick, effects-laden, two week-long television commercials—for products people can buy, like burgers and pop and for ideas they can buy into, like globalization.

The athletes are almost just a hook now.

With enough money, all the darker and messier aspects of the Olympic movement, such as greed, avarice and deceit, can be obscured behind a shiny facade of organizational competence, leaving consumers around the world free to cheer and be cheered by the uplifting spectacle of pure sporting competition.

However, the Rio 2016 games are opening at the worst time for Brazil—with president, Dilma Rousseff, facing a long-drawn-out impeachment process; the country deep in economic recession and still experiencing a much-publicized outbreak of the Zika virus.

All together, these factors could be the perfect storm to blow away the carefully-constructed facade that the Olympic Games try to present.

In fact, the potential failure of the entire event, not just of individual athletes, adds a whole new dimension of suspense and interest. But if nothing else, we may at least get to see a more human and less stage-managed Olympics.

The staggering economic inequalities in the host city, the deep public opposition to the Olympics, along with the mad scrambling of organizers behind the scenes, may all be as front-and-centre as the athletics and the marketing.

Summer in name only for the first time in Olympic history!

The Rio 2016 Olympics, aka, the Games of the 31st Olympiad, will mark only the third time that the Summer Olympics have been held in the Southern hemisphere and, it turns out, the very first time ever that the Summer Games have been held in a host country’s wintertime—don’t ask me why!

The first and second Southern hemisphere Summer Olympics were the 1956 Melbourne Games (November 22 to December 8) and the 2000 Sydney games (September 15th to October 1st), which both took place in Australia’s spring and summer months.

Some would describe Olympic figure-skating as “mickey-moused”

Just like Olympic organizers in Rio, handy homeless people in Vancouver will also describe improvised solutions as being MacGuyver-ed. However older homeless people in particular are just as likely to refer to impromptu fixes as being “mickey-moused”. The latter term, properly speaking, specifically denotes a repair done incorrectly and in the least expensive and fastest way. Cash-strapped Rio 2016 organizers may be avoiding the second term because they can’t possibly afford the stiff licensing fees demanded by Disney.

By the way, duct tape was just one of the items that MacGyver used. When problems are fixed exclusively with duct tape, they are said to have been “Red Green-ed“. Click the image to enlarge it.

From → Homeless life, TV

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