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rio de janeiro

Rio 2016's "Legacy" Gets Even Worse: Does Anyone Need Used Cables?

Heavily used for three weeks, neglected by owners, otherwise fine.

by Aaron Gordon
Apr 7 2017, 2:25pm

This cable—and more!—can be yours if you hit up the Rio Organizing Committee. © Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

During the Rio 2016 closing ceremonies, IOC President Thomas Bach said the following words, apparently not in jest: "History will talk about a Rio De Janeiro before and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games." History, insofar as it can be determined six months later, is doing no such thing.

The latest example comes via a Bloomberg report that the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee can't pay its debts. The committee is asking creditors to take 30 percent less than the $32 million they're actually owed, before the Organizing Committee shuts down for good in June. Since they have no money, the organizing committee, as Bloomberg reported, is trying to pay its creditors with "stuff—air conditioners, portable energy units, electrical cables -- in lieu of or in addition to cash."

I can verify that, having spent some time in the Olympic Park during the Games, there is an awful lot of that stuff. A day before the opening ceremonies, I got hopelessly lost trying to navigate the vast triangle and walked down a long paved lane lined with cables and units. It felt a quarter mile long, although I didn't precisely measure. Either way, it seems odd a three-week event had to buy this stuff rather than rent it. I can also verify the air conditioners worked quite well; all the media workrooms were kept at a solid 57 degrees. Environmental legacy indeed.

The organizing committee being broke is intricately tied to the fact that the entire country is broke. The committee had to borrow gobs of money from the city and federal governments just to make the Games happen. But, as the committee spokesperson told Bloomberg, only a portion of that money ever showed up. Hence, the debt.

So what happens if they can't pay off their creditors by June when the committee disbands? That debt gets shifted to the committee's guarantors, which are...wait for it...the local and federal governments, which couldn't pay their loans to the committee in the first place.

Just about the last thing Rio or the federal government needs is more debt. A pension crisis is looming in several Brazilian states including Rio, and the city is having trouble affording basic civil services. $32 million may be a drop in the very deep debt bucket at this point, but when you're drowning, the last thing you want is more water.

Aside from not being able to honor debts, are there any other Olympic legacies we should be aware of? Why, dear reader, I'm so glad you asked. You know how one of Rio 2016's biggest boosters and Rio state governor, Sergio Cabral, is now in jail facing corruption charges? Well, via Bloomberg, deploy extremely poignant metaphor!

"[Rio 2016 spokesperson] Mario Andrada said Cabral and others jailed in Rio may be using some of the furniture from the Athletes Village after mattresses and blankets were sent to a local prison for former police officers.

"'He's probably sleeping on an Olympic mattress,' Andrada said."

There's your Olympic legacy, baby. Isn't it beautiful?