The 2016 Olympics in Brazil have been a whirlwind of toxic bacteria, lethal malaria, green algae laced diving pools and severed limbs floating past ocean events. These moments have been interspersed with harrowing tales of rowing coaches and Russian swimmers being mugged at knife-point on Ipanema Beach, British athletes being robbed as they entered the Olympic Village and the sounds of sobbing visitors coming from Rio’s Tourist Police Station after they had been waylaid by gangs of adolescent thieves.
Brazil was not fazed by any of these occurrences. They did not appear embarrassed in the slightest by the rampant crime or the overabundance of E.coli floating in the water. It did not seem to worry them that television cameras fell out of the sky squashing spectators or that the concession stands ran out of food within an hour of opening. They spent over fifteen billion dollars for the Olympics – sixteen times more than they budgeted to combat the Zika virus – and by God the world was going to see the vacation paradise of Rio. Nothing could dim their bright shiny upturned faces hoping to lure in your tourist trade.
That is until Ryan Lochte and the rest of his merry men from the American gold medal relay team decided to report being robbed at gunpoint coming home from a party at the France House. That was a bridge too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the extra cup of bleach in the diving pool. They could not, would not let that slander stand. The federal police were called. Two of the four swimmers were dragged off a departing plane and their passports were confiscated. A third went into hiding and the fourth was smart enough to get the hell out of Dodge before the indictments came down.
The police gave a press conference in which they indignantly stated that the robbery was actually a couple of security guards overreacting to the drunk, knee walking gold medalists who had vandalized a bathroom door at the gas station where they had come to grab a taxi. The armed security guards, in the words of the police, needed to get control of the situation so they waived their pistols around at the pie eyed quartet and then shook them down for money to fix the damaged toilet door and a broken mirror. One can only assume there may have been a language issue during this negotiation. The result of the discussion was the swimmers left money and got the hell out of there and back to the Olympic village where Ryan Lochte called his mom and told her he was robbed. She later spoke with Fox Sports and the rest is history.
Were the Americans jackasses? You betcha. Were they young, drunk and stupid? Again, without a doubt. Is it possible that not speaking Portuguese they thought they were being robbed by the overzealous guards at the gas station who were gesticulating with guns and then took their money? Perhaps. The edited video (there appear to be three minutes missing) released by the constabulary shows all four swimmers with their hands up in the air. Not the general position one takes for a friendly chat. The real question here is did they deserve to be dragged off a commercial airline in a foreign country, have the police confiscate their passports, be interrogated by detectives until two o’clock in the morning or threatened with indictment, 3 years in a Brazilian jail and possible extradition? No.
To put it mildly, the Brazilians overreacted. The humiliation of all the other bizarre, dangerous, sometimes lethal incidents which had occurred leading up to and during the games was finally too much for them and they broke. They did not break when the drug lords of Rio mowed down Olympic security guards in a spray of bullets. They did not break when someone shot out the windows of a foreign press bus or when an Australian swimmer was forced to an ATM at gunpoint. They broke when four inebriated high profile Americans reported they believed they were robbed by fake police and they wanted to go home.
So the Brazilian Federales dragged two swimmers from their plane and interrogated them until they admitted they don’t know what happened Sunday night except they were bleepfaced. An action which by the way served as a stark reminder to all Americans that our constitutional rights do not extend across our border. An aside here to the police chief of Rio – Do you really think we believe that the two swimmers who have now confessed that they lied are on the up and up while you stand there holding their passports and their tickets home?
To Brazil I ask does it really matter if the relay team were vandals or victims? Your city is both dangerous and infectious and should never have been the site for the 2016 Olympics. I am still wondering who on the IOC got a new summer home after Rio was awarded the franchise. To launch a government sponsored vendetta against four young idiots who may or may not have filed a false police report in Rio after the carnage of the past two weeks is like suing the nail salon for a sloppy pedicure after the leg has been amputated – and left floating in Rio Harbor.
No one is coming to Brazil on their next spring break despite the panoramic views, the grandeur of Sugar Loaf and the majesty of Christ the Redeemer. This is not because of Ryan Lochte, Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz or Jimmy Feigen and their crime spree in the gas station men’s room. If Rio wants to know why no one is beating down their door all they have to do is look in the mirror.