The 31st Olympic Games are off to a flying start in Rio despite the roaring protests. The greatest show on earth is often shrouded in controversy. In fact, over the years, multiple Summer Olympic Games have been overshadowed by political uprising, terror threats, hotly debated economic policies, and even wars. So why should the first games ever to be held in South America be any different?
After all, a quick look into history is very revealing. The 1916 Berlin Olympics had to be canceled because of World War 1. The 2000 Sydney Olympics were dogged with drug problems amongst the competitors. The Beijing Olympics were plagued with human rights issues. Even the last Olympics in London were not completely controversy free, with social media leading to the expulsion of various athletes.
In fact, the more you dig into the past of the Olympics, the less the headlines seem to be about athletes and the more they are about controversy and human error. So now, in 2016, it’s the Brazilians that are giving us something to talk about and remember for all the wrong reasons. Here are 10 Olympic facts that need to be shared:
1.Summer in Winter
We all know by now that Rio de Janeiro is the first South American city ever to host the games. But did you know that the Olympics 2016 is also the first ever summer games to be held in winter? We’re not talking snow plows, or even gloves and scarves. The city famous for Bossa Nova and the girl from Ipanema doesn’t ever get really cold. In fact, with seasonal lows of around 60 degrees, it’s warmer than the English summer of 2012.
2. Multilingual Taxi Drivers
In preparation for the games, Rio's taxi drivers were offered free online English lessons by the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. Instead of being greeted with a traditional “oi”, international athletes and spectators are being welcomed in the universal language. Most drivers who took the four month course learned key words and phrases particularly useful for taxi drivers. Of course, you may still need Portuguese translation services if you need to communicate beyond the weather or key tourist attractions.
3. Women’s Volleyball
Women’s beach volleyball is often the talk of the Olympics. Surely for their athletic prowess and undeniable skills with a ball. What isn’t usually observed is the excess of clothing worn. In fact the 2016 games will probably be remembered for the famous photo circulating the web highlighting key cultural differences between women.
The women’s volleyball match between Egypt and Germany is all about the outfit used by team Egypt, Nada Meawad and Doaa Elghobashy (who also covered her head with a hijab). Their long sleeve black shirts and leggings were a striking contrast to German rivals Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, wearing a traditional two-piece bikini.
Elghobashy later commented: “'I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn't keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.”
4- Rio’s River Doesn’t Exist
One of the strangest things about the dazzling city that’s the current focal point of the world? Rio de Janeiro is named after a river that doesn’t exist. Apparently the first Portuguese explorers who arrived there believed that the bay they found (Guanabara Bay) was the mouth of a river. They then named the city after a river that never existed.
5- Christ The Redeemer Regularly Struck by Lightning
Rio’s tropical climate, lofty mountains and equatorial location make it a veritable hotbed of activity for electric storms. Standing at 98 feet tall, the world famous landmark statue of Christ the Redeemer, is also the perfect conductor of lightning. Probably not the safest place for the monument to be.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Space Research, the statue atop Rio’s Corcovado mountain gets between two to four powerful direct hits of lightning each year. There is a system of lightning rods in place for security reasons, but it isn’t always effective. In 2015, the statue’s thumb was sliced off by the power of an electrical current. Moral of the story? If you see the storm clouds gathering, give this tourist attraction a miss.
6- The Zika Virus
Another thing to stay clear off during the Olympic Games is mosquitoes, as the Zika virus continues to be a concern in this part of the world. With 26,000 new cases of Zika reported in the first quarter of 2016, it’s not surprising that both athletes and spectators are worried.
However, the seasonal time of year (winter) along with $5.7 million spent by Brazil's Ministry of Health has gone a long way to safe-guard the well-being of all those attending. Lightning strikes, uprising and Zika aside, at least Rio doesn’t win the award for the most polluted games ever. That particular price belongs to Beijing.
7- Olympic Loss of Productivity
According to People magazine, not only do the Olympics mean a giant expenditure for the hosting country, but they also amount to an Olympic loss of productivity globally. An estimated $5.4 billion will be lost in productivity in the workplace as employees will be tuned into the games rather than focusing on their jobs. As many as 72% of business professionals are planning to watch the Olympics, so business owners will be tearing their hair out around the world.
8- Brazil has Two Presidents
Say what? Yes, that’s right. Despite epic attempts to hide the underlying political corruption, Brazil wins the prize for having the most leaders in place during any Olympic Games. Dilma Rousseff is currently suspended facing impeachment proceedings and Michel Temer is her rather lackluster interim replacement.
Both Presidents are deeply unpopular throughout the country, with the majority of Brazilians utterly jaded and furious with the whole political establishment. Even their beloved former leader, Lula da Silva is now embroiled in corruption scandals.
9- Protestors Pelted the Olympic Torch Relay
The Olympic torch began its journey around Brazil back in early May and was pelted by rioters as it entered Rio de Janeiro. Although the Olympic Torch Relay has often been met with controversy as it travels around the world, the Rio handover has to be one of the least successful ever. Furthermore, despite ticket prices being around have the price of those of London 2012, the Rio Olympics are far from sold out.
10- Brazil’s Capital is Brasilia
Maybe you already knew that, but if this pop quiz question hasn’t arisen for you before, Brazil’s capital city is not Rio or Sau Paulo, but actually Brasilia. A sweepingly modern city that was built in less than four years. The UNESCO World Heritage site was built to bring the capital, formerly Rio de Janeiro, closer to Brazil's Midwest and other regions and looks like an aeroplane from above.
Image credit: ververidis / 123RF