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Rio Olympics 2016: Lack of facilities for press, players overshadow excitement in Brazil

Overlooking Rio de Janerio, the statue of Christ the Redeemer is one of the main landmarks in the city. It was erected and dedicated in 1931, as a symbol of Brazil. But today, when Brazil is all set to host the first Olympic Games in South America, a need for Christ, in flesh and bone, is felt.

After being awarded the Games seven years ago – ahead of Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo – the city of Rio is still grappling with problems, as far as the conduct of the Games is concerned.

The 2016 Olympics will kick start on 5 August in cash strapped Rio de Janeiro. AFP

The 2016 Olympics will kick start on 5 August in cash strapped Rio de Janeiro. AFP

Leave aside concerns over the Zika virus, the political turmoil and a barrage of media attacks over one reason or another, the fact remains that the city, or the organisers, are not equipped or competent enough to stage an event on the magnitude of the Olympic Games.

Leaving aside small hiccups, like an odd labour protest, if the organisers cannot even streamline the entry of local and foreign media into the Main Press Centre, then that is reason enough to point fingers at them.

Long serpentine queues outside the MPC on Thursday were enough to raise the tempers of media persons. Even more so, when an official responsible said, "we never expected so many media persons.’’ All this, when the media accreditation began more than a year in advance, and finished several months ahead of the Games.

Inside the MPC, things are no better. Empty coffee machines and lack of essential items, like phone chips, tell a sorry tale of inadequate organisation.

From the Indian point of view, it's a sorry state of affairs as well. Bitter internal fights are being carried over to Rio. Even as athletes from all over the world are fighting for that elusive medal, Indian officialdom is at logger heads. This time, it is literally a 'Kissa kursi ka' (battle for power/position).

Bitter emails are being exchanged between the Indian Chef de Mission, Rakesh Gupta, and Hockey India, over the lack of chairs in the rooms for the players. With just one day to go before the Games, surely these matters are irrelevant.

Roelant Oltmans, the team coach and Hockey India's High Performance director, has also written to the CEO of Hockey India about the lack of kits for the Indian players.

In the letter, Oltmans complained about receiving the wrong kit. "Although we had informed the Indian Olympic Association and HI Matthew Eyles, we still didn't receive the right kit for Rio. We can only use one set. The Chef de Mission told us that he has informed the IOA, but there is still no response. Please do the needful, as there are only three days to go," Oltmans had written in the mail.

As a professional sports journalist, this would be my sixth Olympic Games. It had always been a dream of mine to live next to the MPC or the Olympic Park. This year, I was fortunate enough, as the MPC is just a five-minute walk from the flat I was put up in. But unfortunately, the state it is in is not inspiring. Have I come all the way to Brazil to keep track of the Zika virus or of how many chairs the Indian contingent has been provided with at the Olympic Village?

Incidentally, at a fast food joint last night, besides condiments and several bottles of ketchup, we were also given a mosquito repellent! Well, at least there wasn't a shortage of chairs. But the fact remains Hockey India, the Olympic Games are not just about Zika or chairs.

Updated Date: Aug 05, 2016 14:55 PM

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