By David Goldblatt
on July 26th, 2016
Preparations have often been a mess but Rio’s buildup may be the most disorderly yet – and no matter how special the Games a disaster of unprecedented proportions will have already happened
The final days of preparation before the first modern Games in Athens in 1896 offered many of the tropes that still structure Olympic coverage a century later. Rumours persisted that the stadium would not be ready on time, leading to a furious exchange of letters in The Times. The New York Times correspondent came to dig for dirt and found it. “There were plenty of old tin cans and rubbish scattered where once the silver Ulysses sparkled to the sea: the grove of Academe reminded me of picturesque bits in shanty town.”
The refurbished stadium for the 1920 Antwerp Games, started just 15 months beforehand, was finished perilously late. The French occupation of the Ruhr and the flooding of the Seine in the winter of 1923 put Paris 1924 in question. The architect of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic complex was harried in the local press for shady practices and sweetheart deals. Los Angeles 1932 was held in the very depth of the great depression. All feel remarkably familiar stories, not just from the distant past but from pretty much every Olympic Games since Atlanta 1996.