Rio 2016 by Derek Wyatt
Four years ago the nation basked in the stunning success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Record crowds attended, our multi racial volunteers were simply outstanding and they were rightly awarded the Best Games ever. London became the first city in the world to host them for a third time.
Before the opening ceremony there were concerns at different times about cost overruns, security (remember the G4 debacle?), the lack of an anchor tenant (unlike the Manchester Commonwealth Games stadium in 2002 which was always ear marked for Manchester City) and the jaw dropping cost of the tickets.
But come the opening ceremony and all this was forgotten. For four weeks the talk was how creative we were as a nation, how brilliant our athletes were and how the crowds supported everyone especially those participating in the Paralympics. It made us all immensely proud of ourselves. Pity we did not bottle this mood given how Londoners now feel about Brexit!
So spare a thought for the Rio Games organisers as they ready themselves for the Olympics and Paralympics beginning 5th August. They too have had their problems. Stadia are still being finished (Athens was the same in 2004). The Zika mosquito virus has bedeviled the nation and caused some athletes, mainly golfers like Rory McIlroy, to withdraw. (As if golf should be in the Games in the first place!)
But above all else there is the spectre of Russian track and field competitors not being allowed to compete. This is because some of their athletes have been found guilty of drug abuse. It has been clear for some time that there has been - as there was between 1952 and 1988 in the old Soviet Union - state sponsored programmes to improve the performance of athletes by using banned substances.
Russia hosted the Winter Olympics 2014 and hosts the FIFA World Cup 2018 and it is probably the case that the increase in illegal drug abuse is connected to these two events. Russia has spent at least $30b showcasing these sports and has wanted to demonstrate - given Ukraine and the financial boycotts imposed by the West - that she is back as a leading member of the world community.
As for Rio they do not know this but as soon as their Games open all the criticism and all the in-fighting will be forgotten. For as London proved, the Olympics and Paralympics (might they be one soon?), are the greatest show on earth.
Bring them on.
Published July edition