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Don’t Lump Problems Like the Andrew Bogut Shower-Curtain Fiasco in With Real Risks in Rio

Getty Images
Getty Images

Less than a week before the opening ceremony, Andrew Bogut has become the latest voice of the popular The Rio Olympics Are Doomed movement. In a string of tweets sent out Monday with the hashtag #IOCLuxuryLodging, the Team Australia center detailed the subpar accommodations that greeted him at the athletes’ village, which is not composed of luxury villas, he’ll have you know. His bed is too small for him, he moaned. Even worse: He had to hang his shower curtain himself!!!

Crowing about what a disaster the Olympics are going to be has become a perverse sort of pastime over the past few months. But here’s the thing about the constant doomsaying: It’s hard to cut through the chaos to tell if there’s a real problem — one beyond “Andrew Bogut had to put hooks in his own shower curtain” — and in the case of Rio, there might be.

I am firmly team Rio Is Fine. Yes, of course, I acknowledge there has been no shortage of notable fuckups; human body parts washed up near the beach volleyball site hours after the last time I wrote about Rio being fine, like some kind of threat from a PCP-addled Cassandra. But it’s important to remember that Rio the event space is not perfect because Rio the city is not perfect, just as no major world city is, and many of the scandals that have drawn recent headlines have been a little, well, overblown.

At this point, there is an established narrative of — and appetite for — Rio shortcomings, so when an official’s laptop and some shirts are stolen from a room in the athletes’ village, the story becomes the athletes are being robbed in the streets! I don’t want to diminish the shittiness of being the object of petty crime just before the games, but it’s important to take a step back and consider that this is not an epidemic. The recent collapse of the main ramp of the sailing port seemed like confirmation of our worst fears about bad planning and shoddy craftsmanship — except that it happened in the midst of heavy storms offshore. For nearly every concern about Olympic preparation, there is a sound #wellactually waiting in the wings.

This is not true, however, of security. In a year that has witnessed a barrage of deadly terror attacks around the world, many of them directed at large outdoor events, it’s reasonable to be on edge heading into the Olympics. Rio organizers haven’t exactly inspired confidence, firing the firm contracted to manage security just last week. The CEO of the Rio Organizing Committee has said that security is his greatest concern going into the games. This, after all, is the real priority: The safety and well-being of athletes, visitors, and residents; not whether Bogut’s feet might get cold during the night. But the former keeps getting lost in the noise.

So before you share the next RIO DISASTER!!! story, consider whether it actually seems disastrous. There are plenty of things to be wary of — from security to the Zika virus to the gargantuan and almost certainly inadvisable cost of hosting the games at all — without manufacturing extra drama.