Euro 2016 and Olympics - a tale of two crises

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
LAUSANNE
Published 27.04.2016 00:14

An Olympic Games in a country engulfed in political crisis and football's European Championship in a nation that fears a terrorist attack. It is almost a perfect storm in a major sporting year. Experts see risks everywhere that could destroy the "feelgood factor" that two such major events would normally bring.

The 100-day countdown to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games starts today. The country, gripped by an economic crisis that has forced deep austerity cutbacks, could lose its president in the coming weeks. President Dilma Rousseff is fighting for her political life with impeachment proceedings likely over alleged accounting irregularities. She has called it a "coup" attempt.

France has seen two major militant attacks in the past 16 months and decided last week to extended a state of emergency to take in the European Championship football finals starting June 10 and the Tour de France cycling epic in July.

"These two events are at risk because terrorism is everywhere and the economic crisis is strong in both Brazil and France," said Jean-Loup Chappellet, a specialist on the Olympic movement at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP) at the University of Lausanne.

Chappellet said there was every chance that the risks will not materialize but warned that they "might kill the feelgood factor that is usually associated with mega events."

"Security will be very high but will get in the way of celebrations. And people will think about the costs in a time of austerity."

So far demonstrations in Brazil have not targeted the Olympics in the way they did the football World Cup two years ago.

The action against Rousseff, who could be forced to stand down before the Aug. 5 start of the Games, still casts a shadow over the event.

And uncertainty about the Zika virus has added an extra edge to preparations by Olympic delegations around the world. Health authorities say the virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies, is easing in Brazil but likely to grow in other countries.

France is now calmer than in the aftermath of Nov. 13, which left 130 dead. But soldiers patrol the streets of Paris and other major cities. Extreme security is planned in stadiums and fan-zones expected to attract 2 million foreign supporters for the 24-nation Euro 2016."The situation in the whole world is very complex and impossible to foresee," said a former top executive with the International Olympic Committee who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity.

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