Op Ed: One Month to Rio Triumph or "Great Failure"

(ATR) Against the odds, Rio 2016 seems ready to deliver the Olympics in one month.

(ATR) If things go wrong in Rio, it probably won’t be the fault of the organizing committee.

For all the bad things that have cropped up on the road to the Rio Olympics -- from impeaching the president to the Zika virus -- very little has had anything to do with the organizing committee.

The staff and volunteers who will run the Rio 2016 Olympics inside the fence have been prepping for years, some since 2009 when the bid was won. The results of their work will become apparent in just a few weeks as the athletes of the world converge in Rio. We think that within the fences of the Olympic venues the world will be in order, with few problems worth mentioning.

We are worried about the situation outside the fences, where government takes over from the private organizing committee to supply security, transport and other services.

With interim leaders for both national and state governments, a leadership vacuum that has nothing to do with the Olympics may well affect how the Games turn out.

There are warning signs from the ranks of the state and municipal police whose job it is to patrol the Olympic city. This week, for the second time in a month, police union demonstrators held a protest at the Rio airport as passengers arrived on international flights.

"Welcome to Hell" is the perhaps overstated theme of their grievance with the Rio de Janeiro state government. Still, police forces were facing an Olympics with no money to pay for petrol for the squad cars until getting an emergency infusion of cash from the national government.

The fact that $850 million in aid was approved within daysof the alert by the Rio state government was a pleasant surprise, given the leadership vacuum. And maybe it’s a sign that despite how screwed up everything seems to be in Brazil, things will get done for the Olympics.

For months now, the Rio state government has been under the watch of an interim governor as the duly-elected Luiz Fernando Pezão remains on sick leave, battling cancer. His stand-in, Francisco Dornelles, just two weeks ago raised the potential for "great failure" without the money to pay the police.

"Great failure" may also be an apt way to describe the federal government supplying help to the state government. This year, instead of boosting national pride and focusing the country’s attention on the spectacle of the Olympics, legislators in Brasilia have been preoccupied with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

The continued dithering over Zika might have been avoided with a powerful communicator for Brazil who could instill confidence about the safety of travel to the country.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes remains Brazil’s best spokesman, a beacon of continuity since 2009 when the city won the Games. The city has overseen the construction of a dozen new venues as well as redevelopment of the Port District and other improvements timed for the Olympics, most of them finished on time.

But there’s only so much the city can do. Fighting crime is largely the domain of the bankrupt Rio state police. Ridding the waterways and Atlantic Ocean in Rio of pollution from city sewers can’t be done without billions from federal and state governments. Let’s hope Paes gets to spend some time boasting next month instead of apologizing for the incompetence of others.

Written by Ed Hula.