Rio 2016 Preview: 5 Stories to Watch

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The sports world is a very different one then only four years ago and that is largely because of the environment surrounding international sport.

Only last year one of the biggest international organisations came under fire for the way they operate.

The Federation Internationale de Football Association, or more commonly known as FIFA, came under major scrutiny last year.

All after an investigation was launched into how they have been run over the last few years, and more likely over the last few decades.

Under president Sepp Blatter the organisation had accepted money illegally from the regional organisations in order to gain more favour from the international organisation.

That included accepting money to grant certain regions the World Cup when they truly never deserved to host an event of that size.

Chief among them has been Qatar who received the World Cup bid despite the lack of a true city in the area and the guaranteed weather issues in the middle of the summer.

Qatar seemed like one of the worst decisions to host the biggest event in soccer and yet they still got the right to host it, causing some to wonder what was going on behind closed doors.

An investigation by the FBI revealed that the worst thoughts of most were true as corruption was throughout the organisation.

In that environment, the International Olympic Committee is about to take focus and they have often been associated with organisations like FIFA.

There have been accusations of corruption for years in the organisation and 2014 and 2016 are two years with the most controversy around them.

In 2014 the Olympics decided to travel to Sochi, Russia where a city barely existed before the Olympics began.

In some type of financial magic the Russians were able to afford all of the costs and not make it a disaster but the way they did it has been a bit of a well-known mystery.

This year the IOC has decided to give the biggest sporting event in the world to Brazil, a country that has been in turmoil for years.

With the recession hitting hard there are plenty of issues in the country and yet the IOC decided to travel to the country anyway.

Decisions made by these massive organisations have been questioned more than ever in the last decade and the IOC is one of the leading organisations to get the criticism.

As the Rio games approach, they are only coming under more fire for their choice of host cities. Issues have been creeping up but for the IOC the hope is that the same thing happens now that has happened for years before.

When the games begin the issues are forgotten and the talk surrounding the IOC disappears, at least until the next games approach.

The Rio Games are almost here and they will certainly be a different version of the games than anyone has seen.

There will be last go-rounds from amazing athletes and new sports to pay attention to as the Rio Games will be full of interesting storylines.

What might be more interesting though is the cloud that the game shave been under with issues from organisers and bigger sporting issues taking focus.

Which set of storylines takes focus will be determined as the games go on with the Rio legacy hanging in the balance.

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For many, it is a mystery to why countries bid on major sporting events that bring the worlds focus on them. More often than not it highlights the issues in the country and when the event has finished the legacy of that event is usually empty stadiums that will never be used again. Countries try to get these major games because of the opposite though as it highlights the country as a destination. Although many countries have issues leading up to the event they often are forgotten while the event is running and as a result the host country gets to highlight their country as a destination for travellers. Rio de Janeiro might be the first city to buck that trend though as the headlines leading up to the Rio Games have been overwhelmingly negative. It is hard to think that the stories will stop once the games get underway as the issues are much bigger than high costs and the Olympic legacy. Heading into the games the Olympics were truly in danger as many people thought that the games might be cancelled or at the very least moved due to the issues they were dealing with. One of the first issues was the water quality in throughout some of the bodies of water surrounding Rio. The biggest issue was that many of the concerning areas are going to be hosting events where the water quality may concern athletes. Sailors, Marathon Swimmers, and Triathletes will all have direct contact with water that is unsanitary and unfit for consumption and fitness. The water was supposed to be treated with new water treatment facilities that will not be built due to a need to cut costs. If an athlete does get sick due to the water it will be a massive black eye for the entire games. It is far from the only issue though as there is also concerns over the safety of athletes and fans alike. The world is in a far different place then only two years ago and the threat of a major attack is more real than it has been before. There are already issues with security as police officers are not happy with their pay during the worst recession in Brazil’s history. The Australian team has already claimed that they may not be safe as they refuse to stay in the athlete’s village due to security concerns. On top of all of that, Brazil is currently in the midst of a Zika Virus outbreak that has massive effects on pregnant women and their children. Already a number of major names, including the top four golfers in the world, have dropped out of the Olympics due to the health concerns surrounding the Zika virus. The Rio Olympics are already one of the most controversial of all-time and they can only hope that the talk turns to the sports and stays away from the issue. It will only take one major incident during the games to continue that controversy and leave a very different legacy in Rio.

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No matter the sport there are always legends that people come out to watch game after game. No matter how great those legends are there is always a time when they have to walk away from the sport. In the Olympics the legends that dominate the sport are even bigger stars because they have to perform once every four years. They are the type of athletes who can stay consistent in between the Olympic Games and when the big show begins they reach another level. That is something special as these athletes are truly something different from everyone else as they take the biggest event of their lives in stride. The summer Olympics has two such athletes who have ruled the summer version of the sporting showcase. It helps that they are part of the two biggest sports on the Summer Olympic calendar as people are always watching. In the pool a number of events keeps people watching swimming hoping to see the winner of a race. The king of the pool has been Michael Phelps who has broken numerous records for his dominance. Heading into the 2004 Olympic Games the buzz was already starting for this young American kid who might be able to take more golds than anyone in one Olympic Games. He did just that winning six gold medals and taking two more bronze medals in his first Olympic Games. In 2008 he took it another step further when he swept every event he participated in winning eight gold medals and becoming the Olympian with the most medals all-time. He is a superstar and he has come under the same pressure as all other superstars with controversy following him and almost ending his career. Now after a long road to recovery from addiction, he returns for his third Olympic games as he looks to add to his massive medal total. Outside of the pool, there is one event that is the biggest in every Summer Olympic Games and that is the 100m sprint. The winner is always one of the biggest stars but over the last two Olympic Games, there has been one star on the track. That is Usain Bolt who is still the reigning fastest man on the planet after two gold medals and the World Record in the 100m sprint. He has been the charismatic star that everyone loves and that has continued the dominance of Jamaicans in the sprint events. He might not have the medals that Phelps has but he has won the premier event in the Olympics in two straight games and he enters his third Olympic Games looking for his third gold in the 100m and the 200m to continue to be the fastest man on the planet. Both athletes will enter their third Olympic Games and for both it will be their last as they both will retire after Rio. After years of sitting on top of their sports, they will walk away but not before they get one more chance to go out on top.

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Any major sporting event comes with plenty of pressure for every athlete participating and sometimes that pressure leads to an athlete going over the edge. In order to achieve their dream and win an Olympic medal or simply to get a gold medal and make a living on endorsements athletes can take it a step too far. There is no shortage of examples throughout any major event and the Olympics is certainly not immune from that. Performance Enhancing Drugs have long been a source of controversy in the Olympics which includes the years when it was fairly well-known and yet nothing was done due to the rules. Every year there seems to be at least one athlete who has their medal stripped after their test came back positive. Usually, it is after the fact though as tests come back after the performance and when the Olympics are coming to an end or are over athletes are then stripped. This year it has been slightly different though as PED tests have had an impact before the Olympics have even started. There have been revelations seemingly every week of another doping scandal where another Olympian is banned from the Olympics. No doping scandal has been bigger than that of Russia’s though with the uncovering of a massive, state-sanctioned, doping ring throughout the Russian Olympic team. It is not the most surprising country to be caught though as teams in the area, like East Germany, have been suspected or proven of doping for years. This year it was revealed that the Russians had put together a massive doping program for their teams. As a part of the program, a doctor put together a drug cocktail that athletes took regularly. To pass the tests the Russian officials would switch out urine giving their athletes clean samples even going as far to hand the samples through holes in the wall. The Russian doping program was exposed earlier this year and for a country that had been getting better and winning more medals, everything came to light. As the Russian prepared for the Rio Olympics they were once again looking like a strong team in multiple sports. Then the doping program was revealed and entire teams were left off of the Olympic roster. The Track and Field team did not make the trip to Rio as the entire Russian Track and Field body was banned from the games. The weightlifting team will also not be able to send all of their athletes that qualified after positive tests from their athletes. In total, the Russians will send 172 athletes to Rio after having a team of 436 in London four years ago. Doping will always be a controversy in the Olympics and there is certainly more issues coming as some athletes are bound to be caught during these games. For now, though the doping scandal in Russia is taking the headlines after one of the largest doping scandals in Olympic history hits the already controversial Rio Olympics.

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More often than not sports are seen as something that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. That thought is not entirely wrong as they are just games played by men and women for trophies. When looking at that compared to the biggest issues in the world trophies and prizes are not the biggest things to think about. They aren’t entirely a waste though as sports can provide a needed distraction for many people. The Olympics are a perfect example as the world is in an interesting place right now with issues and fear in every corner of the world. The Olympics is a time when the world can come together and watch a major event with national pride on the line. Fans from every country can be competing against each other but everyone is participating and forgetting about the fear that grips the world. For one group of people in the world escaping is a slightly tougher as they are in between and unwanted in the majority of the world. Refugees are looking to escape their war-torn countries where their homes are destroyed and their children or themselves are likely to be killed. Right now with the issues in the Middle East, there are more refugees than anyone knows how to handle and they continue to try to find refuge in Europe or North America. Many Europeans or North Americans are not too happy about this for the fear of some being terrorists using refugees as a cover to attack their country. Essentially refugees have no home and are feared enough that some are even calling for a ban on letting them into a country. It is a tough life to live but the Olympics is attempting to provide some sort of escape for those in that situation. That will hopefully come with the Refugee team that will participate in Rio. They will compete under the Olympic flag and are made up of 10 athletes from countries like Syria, Congo and South Sudan. Although they don’t have the same training as others and they have plenty else on their mind it will be hard not to cheer for these athletes while those transitioning in between countries can see what one can achieve despite the country someone is born into. The refugee team is a direct reflection of the times when there are more refugees than ever with more countries in the midst of war and more people attempting to leave. For two weeks though refugees can have a team to cheer for and a team to strive for. That is the power of sports and the Olympic Games. Despite the controversy, there will always be good aspects of the games and although nobody should ignore the controversy there is also room for the good side of the games and the refugee team is a big positive in a sea of negative. It will be a fun team to watch as they play not for their country but for everyone that has been in the same situation and is still in the same situation as themselves.

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No matter the year the Olympic Games will always have one sport that becomes the crown jewel of the entire games. There are always the big events regardless of where the Olympics are they will be the main event. In the summer Olympics that always has been the 100m race where the fastest man in the world is determined every four years. That person is always a star in the Olympics and that event is always one of the most watched every four years. It will still be big this year with Usain Bolt going for his third straight gold medal in his last Olympic Games. Although the 100m will always be a big event there will be nothing bigger than the Olympic soccer tournament this year. Brazil has always been a centre for soccer with some of the wildest fans and some of the best players in the world coming from the country. Only two years ago the Brazilians had their chance to cheer on their home team in person when the country hosted the World Cup. It was a massive tournament for a fan base that loves the game as much as anyone else in the world. The problem with that tournament was that the Brazilian soccer team did not win the World Cup at home. They instead finished fourth and although most countries would take that the Brazilians are used to winning and being named the best in the world. They couldn’t get it done at home though and as a result, the fans left disappointed without a championship that they are so familiar with winning. One tournament that they are not familiar with winning is the Olympic tournament as the Brazilians have never won and Olympic title in soccer. It is surprising as Brazil has always been a powerhouse in the sport and in one of the biggest showcases they have never shown up. With teams like Hungary, Cameroon, Nigeria and Canada all taking golds it is even more surprising. If there was a time for the Brazilians to win this gold medal it has to be now when they are in front of their own fans. There has been plenty of controversy and protest leading up to the games with many questioning the ability to host the games properly. That will never go away completely but if the country wants to soften the blow of the many issues a sure way to do it is to win the gold medal in soccer. It would match the legendary level of the Canadians winning hockey gold in Vancouver in 2010. The soccer tournament will be a major focus this year as it will be the sport that everyone in Brazil is watching with the Brazilian team looking for their first Olympic gold in football which is sure to make the entire games, at least for a little bit, a success in the eyes of Brazilians.

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