Okay, so yes, ha ha, the organizers of the Rio Olympics forgot to bring one of the keys to the Maracanã Stadium for the opening event, a women’s soccer match between Sweden and South Africa, and had to call in the fire department to bring bolt cutters to open the gates. Look, hilarity!
— Julia Carneiro (@juliadcarneiro) August 3, 2016
All things considered, though, this one screwup really should be overshadowed by the ways in which the Rio Games are a far more massive screwup — not just because of incompetence, but because putting on an Olympics is a massively expensive undertaking that has doused city after city in red ink. (Chicago, which was runner-up to Rio for getting the 2016 Olympics, is currently congratulating itself on having dodged a bullet.) Brazil is expected to end up spending between $12 billion and $20 billion on hosting the games, a figure that they’ll never ever make back on Olympic revenues, especially given both Zika fears and the proven effect that the Olympics make everyone not there for the Games clear out of town for three weeks. And it’s hard to envision Rio even doing too well in terms of publicity (if anyone really needed to be told about Rio — it’s already the subject of two movies about adorable talking parrots, after all) when the enduring image of the Games could be athletes swimming through raw sewage.
Of course, once the opening ceremonies kick off tonight, all will likely be forgotten, at least in the official coverage of the Olympics. But as much as it’s fun to laugh about Rio, just as we previously laughed about Sochi’s caviar highway, remember that those firefighters who had to cut open the Maracanã had just been through layoffs to help pay for, among other things, Olympic debts. Now that’s comedy! Or maybe that other thing.