But here at Radio Times we’re nothing if not optimistic. Here are just some of the reasons why Rio 2016 could be the best Games yet.
1. Samba smiles and two girls from Ipanema…
In 2012 we had the London Symphony Orchestra and a mutton-chopped Kenneth Branagh playing Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Rio’s Opening Ceremony offers a cameo by former supermodel Gisele Bündchen, plus some sensational sashaying by the original Girl from Ipanema. Now 71, ballerina and “aerojazz” dancer Helô Pinheiro inspired the 1962 bossa nova classic. Fifty-four years later, the world will marvel again as she carries the Olympic torch through Rio ahead of the Opening Ceremony.
2. Get it on Twitter
These will be the first 24/7 Games on social media – the influence of Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat will dwarf that of four years ago. Rio’s US-friendly time zone (one hour ahead of US Eastern Standard Time) suggests there will be a bumper TV audience, too.
Usain Bolt will be going for an unprecedented “treble treble”, defending the Olympic titles he won in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. However, this time round Justin Gatlin will be pushing him all the way in the 100m, while LaShawn Merritt has run the fastest 200m this year. It’s going to be a special Games for Bolt, though, as most likely it’s his last – he turns 30 on 21 August, the day of the Closing Ceremony.
4. Beach balls
Beach volleyball or traditional, male or female, the Brazilians are brilliant at it. So it’s likely to be very high profile. Expect extra coverage for their beach volleyball stars Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk.
5. Christ the Redeemer haircuts
Marcelo Anderson emerged victorious at Brazil’s recent Battle of the Barbers competition and his design – an outline of Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue above the Olympic rings, shaved into the back of the head – promises to be the must-have hairdo at Rio.
6. Maddest mascots
Olympic mascot Vinicius (in yellow) is a hybrid cat, bird and monkey named after the Brazilian poet, playwright and musician Vinicius de Moraes, who wrote the original lyrics for A Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema). The Paralympics’ Tom (in blue) is named after Tom Jobim, who composed the music for the famous song. The mass of vegetation on Tom’s head is meant to represent Brazil’s abundant plant life.
7. Hijab heroine
The fencer will be the first US athlete to compete in a hijab. Expect her to receive warm encouragement from Donald Trump…
8. American golden girl…
Look out for US champion gymnast Simone Biles. Given up by her drug-addict mother, Biles was raised by her grandparents. Now touted to be a star of the Games and already practising a floor routine to a samba soundtrack, Biles has also unveiled a fiendishly hard vault called a Cheng Fei.
9. And another…
She’s just 19, but Katie Ledecky could be the swimming sensation of the Games. The American is competing for three individual gold medals and is strongly fancied for all of them.
10. Men chasing eggs
Now that golf has seen the withdrawal of its heavy hitters, expect Rugby Sevens to take more of the new-sport spotlight.
11. Brazilians playing footie
The Brazilian football team has won five World Cups but has never won Olympic gold. For this reason, Neymar leads a very strong team this time round. And watch out for 19-year-old Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa, currently wowing them at Santos, the club that produced Neymar and some bloke called Pelé who was meant to be decent.
12. Tom’s shrinking trunks
Can we get to the bottom of the Mysterious Case of Tom Daley’s Disappearing Trunks? Only designer Stella McCartney knows the true answer, but apparently they’re ten per cent smaller in order to make Daley go faster. Although since when was hitting the water faster and harder considered a help in diving?
13. Comeback kid
Now 31, Michael Phelps’s personal problems since London 2012 have included a drink-driving conviction and a stay in rehab. It seemed as though Phelps was finished as a force in the pool. But now the most successful Olympian ever in the water (he has 22 medals, 18 of them gold) is tipped for further glory.
14. Local difficulties
Brazil, as has been reported once or twice in recent months, is mired in political unrest and financial meltdown, with the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus hovering over the country. However, there have been predictions of disaster before just about every single Games staged in recent times. Somehow, the Olympics finds a way. Here’s hoping the country pulls it off for the Games and beyond.
15. Doing the impossible
Dipa Karmakar has already made history by becoming the first female gymnast from India to qualify for the Olympics. She’s also a vault specialist, one of only a handful of women who even attempts the terrifying Produnova double-somersault.
16. Three old jumpers
John Whitaker will be competing for Great Britain in the showjumping at the age of 61 and he’ll be joined by his spring-chicken sibling, Michael, who’s a mere 56. Both men first represented GB at the Los Angeles Olympics (that’s 1984, not 1932). Keeping up the average age will be hardy perennial Nick Skelton, 58 – proving that in showjumping, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. But they’re all striplings compared with Oscar Swahn – in 1920 he took part in the Olympic team shooting at the age of 72 and won a silver.
17. The Green Machine
Aka The Irish men’s hockey team, who are back at the Olympics a mere 108 years after their last appearance. The mainly amateur team, which features teachers, IT workers and accountants, qualified for Rio by beating the much higher ranked Pakistan and Malaysia. Partly funded by fans’ donations, they will be looking to emulate the exploits of their footballing counterparts at Euro 2016. As Father Ted once noted – albeit in reference to the Chinese nation – a great bunch of lads.
18. Meet the “Tank of Dagestan”
Possessor of the finest monicker at the Games, Russian wrestler Abdulrashid Sadulaev (aka The Tank of Dagestan) should be able to show he can live up to that billing in the 86kg class. At 20, he is the reigning world champion and should be among the favourites for gold.
19. An inclusive Games
Rio will see the first refugee team – which could number ten athletes – ever to compete in an Olympics.
20. Hanky panky
This is the first summer Games where the dating app Tinder will be in use, making the always sexually febrile Olympic Village likely to resemble even more than usual the last days of the Roman Empire. Authorities are distributing 450,000 condoms in the Village – three times the number they gave away at London 2012. Celebrate those medals in style!
No, sweat hasn’t made cyclist Laura Trott’s kit run, that’s a cutting-edge mash-up of the four home nations’ floral emblems. Stella McCartney’s design incorporates a “British Coat of Arms” created by the College of Arms, with a Latin legend Luncti in uno (“conjoined in one”). It could be a collectors’ piece if Scotland leaves the union before Tokyo 2020.
22. Gender fluidity
Expect this issue to be high-profile. It has been reported that Team GB includes two transgender members, while the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, who was prevented from competing in 2014 after failing a hormone test, will compete in the women’s 100m.
23. We’ll win! Possibly
A year ago, a Dutch statistics firm was predicting that Great Britain would have a disastrous Games. This July, the company – Infostrada Sports, now Gracenote – suggested GB will finish fourth in the medals table with 18 Golds (and that’s with Russia reinstated). Triumph or disaster? We shall see.
24. English Gardner
Whatever happened to nominative determinism? English is in fact an American sprinter.
25. Two for one
What’s the best thing about the prospect of the Olympics coming to an end on 21 August? It won’t be long then until the start of the 11-day Paralympics, which will light up Rio again from 7 to 18 September. Northern Irish sprinter Sally Brown will compete in the T46 100m and 200m. She is part of a power couple with fellow Paralympic sprinter Jonnie Peacock.
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