Godfrey Robert: Let the Games begin
Let's forget the problems in Brazil and settle down to enjoy the Olympics
The doomsters have had a field day. In fact, many field days.
Instead of appreciating a football-mad Third World country's sincere attempt to stage the biggest sporting event, we have been inundated with reports of negativity that have cast more than a pall of gloom over Brazil.
No doubt, the recession-hit country is in an economic plight, its political climate is quite in turmoil and there are sections of the populace still protesting about Rio's staging of the 31st Olympics.
To compound problems, there are fears of an operational disaster, talk of uninhabitable residential facilities, armed robberies, lax security, sewage-contaminated sailing waters and the dangers of the Zika virus.
This is not something new. Previous Olympics have had the naysayers relishing such negativism pre-Games.
Abominable cost had been questioned at Montreal 1976 and Barcelona 1992, venues turning into white elephants were talked about in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, the displacement of people was a perennial issue and the sprucing up of cities and venue perimeters riled those who had to be displaced.
The Ku Klux Klan spread terror at Los Angeles 1984, the gypsy-warning to foreigners gained prominence in Barcelona 1992 and a bomb exploded at the Press Centre in Atlanta 1996.
But, once the Games get into gear, such problems are normally pushed to the backburner and Olympic heroics on and off the field will give the Games a new lease of life.
No doubt, contradictions will continue to surface.
Where is the level playing field, when athletes from Third World countries have flown into Rio in economy class, while the megastars arrive with first- or business-class air tickets?
How come there are athletes - including tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal - who don't mind staying in spartan conditions at the Games Village, while the USA basketball stars enjoy luxurious living on board an expensive yacht?
Is the wild-card system - mainly to ensure that there is wide representation of the 206 countries affiliated to the International Olympic Committee - a necessity when the gap between the haves and have-nots is so wide that it produces laughing stocks?
Remember at the 2000 Sydney Games, Eric "The Eel" Moussambani Malonga completed his 100m freestyle heat in 1min 52.72sec, outside the time for the then-world record for the 200m?
Such issues also make for good debate but, once the champions and megastars strut their stuff, all these will be temporarily side-stepped.
At these Olympics, Jamaican speedster Usain Bolt's target of a third track treble, the most bemedalled Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' putting his age (31) to the test, and Pele's country's aiming for the elusive football gold should make for good reading and viewing.
For Singapore who, for 48 years since their first Olympic weightlifting silver medal through Tan Howe Liang, have been also-rans at these quadrennials, there is more than a glimmer of hope for a medal quest.
Only time will tell if swimmer Joseph Schooling, shooter Jasmine Ser or the women paddlers, spearheaded by Feng Tianwei, will make the podium. Or will there be a surprise sailing medal?
Beyond such issues, the angst among Singaporeans over live telecast is pleasantly over with Mediacorp's settlement with rights holder Dentsu, and the dragging Russian doping issue has been finalised.
The 16 days of the Olympics will certainly throw up many human-interest stories. The refugee athletes are a good source for this, the Africans always draw attention, and for the first time in 112 years, we'll see golfers swinging it out on the course for four days (no cuts).
In 1928 in Amsterdam, Australia's Harry Pearce stopped rowing during a race to let a family of ducks pass in front of his boat. He eventually won the gold.
In 1960 in Rome, last-minute selection Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the marathon running barefoot.
Real birds were used in the shooting competition in 1900 in Paris. It is said that more than 300 birds lost their lives.
SHAME IN SEOUL
Sprinter Ben Johnson sprinted into shame after finishing first in the 100m in Seoul. He tested positive for doping and quietly jetted back to Canada the next day.
In 1996, the phenomenal Michael Johnson wore gold-coloured shoes and rewrote history as he raced to gold in the 200m and 400m.
So for the next 16 days, we should lap up stories of victory and defeat, glory and agony, personal goals and team targets.
And hopefully, Singapore feature in the big news.
*The writer, The New Paper's consulting editor, covered the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.