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Guest column: Rio debacle on the horizon?

Ken Rudy, Millwood

Watching what has unfolded over the last 15 months in Rio has me worried sick about our athletes going to compete there.

Anyone listening to the interview with (International Olympic Committee member) Anita DeFrantz on the Mike and Mike Show on ESPN radio this week had to be both horrified and disgusted at the same time.

DeFrantz blindly thinks that there are no problems with the upcoming Rio Olympics despite much evidence to the contrary. She sees no real issues down there. I guess she didn’t hear that the Australian Olympic Team abandoned its quarters at the Olympic Village on first sight a few days ago when they discovered they had no electricity or running water. Most of the rooms weren’t finished yet and the opening ceremonies are less than a week away.

Let’s not even talk about the human waste floating in the water at the rowing, sailing and triathlon venues with a viral and harmful bacteria count that’s completely off the scale. How about body parts washing up on one of the beaches? Those aren’t problems? God help anyone who should fall into this cesspool during competition. Think there won’t be any fallout from that?

This venue had issues last summer when the U.S. Junior Rowing Team went there and rowed in a test event on the Olympic course. A large number of those athletes got sick as a result. They couldn’t pinpoint the water as the direct cause, but it seems more than coincidental.

Someone has to call DeFrantz out on this. It’s absolutely ridiculous and if any of our rowing or sailing athletes get sick as a result of exposure to this unhealthy environment while competing, DeFrantz should be held directly responsible. Knowingly ignoring this is malfeasance of the worst order.

Poor construction, collapsing walkways and other sanitation issues with the Rio Olympics have been in the news constantly the past few months.

The IOC has known of these problems for more than a year and yet believed reassurances by the Rio organizing committee that all would be fixed in time for the Games.

Should they have considered a move to another prior Olympic city with venues already in place? Probably, but they were already too committed to Rio by that point. There was no further oversight. The IOC rubberstamped everything on another inspection tour in early spring.

Is the IOC so corrupt that these issues don’t bother them, or are they simply so embarrassed at having chosen Rio as an Olympic city that they can’t admit they screwed up in doing so? The latter seems more likely.

As the sole U.S. representative on the IOC, DeFrantz comes off sounding like an apologist. It’s as if she’s so afraid of ruffling the IOC’s feathers on this that she would willingly send our athletes in those disciplines into such deplorable conditions. She should be ashamed.

Ken Rudy is a longtime member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, an organization devoted to Olympic studies in many disciplines. He has been an active collector and expert on Olympic memorabilia for more than 30 years, specializing in pins and paper goods.

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