Rio de Janeiro. The type of city that never fails to look good on television. The carnival city, sandwiched between sea and sheer cliffs, a city that lives for ball games, beach life and beautiful views.
It should, then, be the perfect Olympic city too, a sporting mecca in a continent that has never hosted an Olympic Games.
So why, with just 30 days to go, are people so concerned about what might happen? With people both inside Brazil and around the world in desperate need for something to cheer about, why are there so many worried frowns?
And can anything be done to save the successor to London 2012?
Are the Rio Olympic venues ready?
Rio 2016 is split across four different zones across the city. The largest, the Olympic Park in Barra, just west of Rio, is, to put it graciously, a work in progress.
When we visit, just a week before the BBC and the rest of the world’s media are due to move in, the area is an open expanse of concrete, lorries and white tents surrounding venues that are supposedly complete, but in reality still have plenty of work to do. What’s certainly lacking is some much-needed carnival colour.
What the Olympic Park should look like…
What it actually looks like…
We visited the Aquatics Centre and the basketball venues, two stadia that have been completed. The swimming pool had water, but scaffolding still covered the upper tiers. Visible wiring round the spectator concourse of the basketball venue suggested at the very least a stripped back approach to venue construction.
The delayed velodrome meanwhile was only signed off by the builders on Sunday 26 June. The first time spectators will actually enter the venue will be on the first day of competition.
“Of course there are still question marks and challenges as to how the venue will perform,” said Rodrigo Garcia, sport director for Rio 2016 . However, he added that the 45 test events held across the Olympic venues, some with spectators and some without, give him confidence that the Park will deliver.
“We have really simple venues, we’re not planning fancy stadiums here in Rio,” he said. “We cannot go against the financial crisis that Brazil is living through today. There is no extra budget for us to expand on what should be in place for the Games.”
For the first time this year, there is a new way to see what’s going on inside the Olympic Park. Google Street View have been mapping the whole area, including inside the venues themselves. It’s a neat concept, giving spectators who can’t make it to Rio a Bolt’s Eye View of the action.
In the end, it’s not for outside broadcasters – who come in, marvel at the views, marvel at the sport – to decide whether the Olympics is money well spent. That’s for Rio locals, the ‘cariocas’, to hold the organisers to account.
“The Olympic Games is designed to overcome whatever else is happening in the world,” says BBC commentator and former athlete Brendan Foster, a veteran of 12 Olympic Games. “Rio has followed the script. The stadiums won’t be ready, there’s disease, the public are turning their back, the country’s facing economic disaster, all the sports face drugs issues, there’s security, terrorism, all those things.”
“The Olympics has become a worldwide spectacle haunted by world-impacting problems,” he added. “Brazil is finding it tough, and is already finding it tough. But these Games will rise beyond all those issues. What happens is sport takes over. We go there not to measure the strength of the Brazilian government; we go there to share in the greatest athletes in the world doing their thing.”
For Brazil’s sake, let’s hope he’s right.