When you consider that the main idea behind the modern Olympic Games is to bring countries and cultures closer together, as well as to foster gentlemanly rivalry far from the battlefield, the significance of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics in the present global climate becomes that much more evident. Every four years the Olympics challenges the limits of human capacity, making it a visual feast for both the participants and the viewers. Yet as much as the Games are about great competition, superstar athletes and wonderful traditions such as the carrying of the torch and the opening ceremony, they also tend to bring up lots of issues – like the relentless transformation of Rio’s famous favelas (urban slums) in the name of boosting infrastructure, turning the entire city into a veritable construction site. On the one hand we have messages of sportsmanship and peace, while on the other we have destruction... As we take a closer look at what makes this year’s Olympic Games so unique, we hope that the large-scale environmental issues, forcible relocation of locals outside of the city and harsh security measures won’t overshadow the Olympic spirit.+
The continent’s first Olympics
Despite South America’s reputation as a hub of sports, it took a long time for the Olympic torch to make its way to the continent. After being shortlisted alongside Tokyo, Chicago and Madrid in 2009, Rio – whose bid for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics was launched with the slogan “Viva a sua paixão” (“Live your passion”) – became the first city in the continent to host the Olympic Games.
A stadium of records
The site of the opening and closing ceremonies, the Maracanã Stadium has a rich and glorious history. Although its current seating capacity is a little over 78,000 people, the stadium once hosted 199,854 people – the largest recorded number of spectators in its history – for the final match of the 1950 World Cup where Uruguay beat Brazil 2-1.
Last month, a young man tried to put out the Olympic torch with a fire extinguisher during its relay through the city of Joinville. Although this was simply the result of a bet gone wrong, many news outlets immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was done in protest of the Olympics. As a city that was already experiencing infrastructure problems before the Olympics, Rio has been ravaged in the lead-up to the event, with many locals naturally feeling enraged by the happenings.
Let the numbers speak for themselves
This year’s Olympics will draw in more than 10,500 athletes from 206 countries competing in 42 Olympic sport disciplines. Over 7.5 million tickets have been sold for the 306 events at 33 venues throughout the city, with the cheapest ticket going for $40 and the most expensive for $3,000. Rugby sevens was added in the Olympic Games after 92 years and golf after 112.
Kids of the millennium
The Rio Games will be the first Olympics attended by athletes born after 2000. Although the age limits vary by discipline, we’ll get to watch young athletes compete in sports like gymnastics and diving. As the millennium kids are slowly starting to take over the scene, all that’s left to us is reminiscing about how it seems like just yesterday that we were watching the opening ceremony of Sydney 2000.