With the opening of the Olympic Games only hours away, the testimonies coming from Rio de Janeiro replicate themselves: There are no mosquitoes, street crime is nowhere to be seen, the sites look spectacular, and everything that has been said for weeks regarding the dangers of the Olympic host city was, clearly, an exaggeration.
Of course, the city of Rio de Janeiro and its authorities will have to play their best game starting now and for the next 17 days, during which the world will follow the Olympic Games with thousands and thousands of visitors as well as hundreds of millions from far away, through the media.
Arguably, the bad image that has been promoted about Rio de Janeiro –and Brazil in general – responds to a poor public relations job on the part of the Amazon country, which was unable to defend itself from the criticism and failed to respond with timely and vigorous action to troublesome issues such as the contaminated waters at the sites of water sports.
However, it is also true that, as has been the case many times before in cities hosting the Games or soccer World Cups, fear and skepticism become exacerbated and create a bad environment.
It is fair to say that every country in the world daring to organize a gargantuan event such as the Olympic Games has its own problems and challenges. Still, the Games themselves become an opportunity: a chance for Brazil to show its virtues to the world, not just its flaws. Undoubtedly, the South American giant, merely the second country in Latin America to host the Games, has many great things to share with the rest of the globe.
Rio 2016 is also an opportunity for the international society; an opportunity, at least for the next 17 days, to allow sports – the noble efforts of competitors when they are not cheating –, the enthusiasm of the fans, the colors of the Olympic movement with its original purpose, and the thrill of victory, to give the world a moment to breathe in times of widespread violence, hatred and tension in several regions of the planet.
That is the power of sports: They are capable to inspire and unite people. Let Rio 2016 become a real celebration, the one that Planet Earth so badly needs.