Leaders: May the Games begin and to the victors the spoils

The Olympic Park ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Picture: AP

The Olympic Park ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Picture: AP

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As the 2016 Rio Olympics invite us to the greatest show on Earth, it is time to stop dwelling on the negatives and aim for victory instead

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games, like its predecessors, is shaping up to be a truly fabulous event as we watch the drama of top athletes vying to be the best in the world, dreams coming true or crashing down.

With more countries than ever taking part and with more than 10,500 athletes, the eyes of the world are on Brazil, which has not had its troubles to seek.

The country is in severe recession with political unrest, high unemployment and aggressive inflation – a far cry from the country’s booming economy of seven years ago when it was chosen to host the games.

What was meant to be Brazil’s “coming of age” party as a world power on the way up, flaunting the country’s new economic fortunes while the industrial countries were still suffering from the global financial crisis, has come crashing down.

As demand for its oil, minerals and exports drastically declined, heralded by China’s economy slowing dramatically, political unrest and protests became the norm. On top of that came the very real fears generated by the Zika virus, creating a “perfect storm” unforeseen when Brazil threw its hat in the ring to win the Games. Spending on the Games was always going to be difficult under these circumstances, from having sufficient resources and skills to build stadiums, venues and accommodation for competitors to planning the Games’ opening ceremony which is every host nation’s “shop window”.

Police broke up riots as the Olympic torch arrived in Rio earlier this week, with activists saying the money spent on the Games would have been better used for health and housing.

Such a configuration of circumstances, coupled with the nation’s police being heavily directed towards ensuring the safety of all attending, has created a convenient vacuum for criminals to exploit. For many of the poorest in Rio, living in shanty towns or “favelas”, life is controlled by heavily armed criminal groups.

Brazil’s police and army have been pro-active and have arrested 12 terror suspects – but this is a worldwide problem, a threat to us all.

More bad publicity was generated by the drug allegations raised against Russia. Again, this was not the fault of the host nation and the International Olympic Committee was right to ignore the strident calls to introduce a blanket ban.

Despite this dramatic roll call of difficulties, the Olympics have their own unique magic which time and time again produce the greatest feats of human endeavour which takes our breath away and inspires youngsters to dream of representing their country one day.

Children will be inspired to run faster and jump higher as they play in the streets after catching footage of top athletes and picking up on the enthusiasm of the crowds.

For the athletes and spectators, it is the greatest show on Earth and we wish all Team GB competitors the very best of luck. Let us settle back and enjoy the sport.

Dame Lowell is free to go

Dame Lowell Goddard’s sudden resignation from the independent UK inquiry in to child sex abuse has come as a blow to victims and to everyone who wanted to see public and private bodies held to account if failings were identified.

This is a massive inquiry and initially the appointment of Dame Lowell, who left her home in New Zealand to take up the post, was heralded as a astute appointment by those who had looked far and wide for a suitable and qualified replacement after the previous two chairwomen quit.

It looked as though Dame Lowell had all the credentials but then she submitted a resignation letter, which nevertheless alluded to difficulties she had faced and said with hindsight it would have been better if she could have started afresh.

That is to be regretted but what on earth is the point of asking her to appear before a committee of MPs to explain herself?

Do those involved think it would make her change her mind?

If she did do just that, what sort of signal would it send if she stayed and what sort of job would she do if her heart was not in the task?

So there can be nothing to be gained from any such appearance which brings with it punitive undertones. It would be the very definition of a waste of time.

Keith Vaz, the home affairs committee chairman, said Dame Lowell needed to tell MPs what progress the inquiry now needed to make. But asking her for a “thorough explanation” is inappropriate.

The true motivation would appear to be to publicly rebuke the woman and make MPs look like they are doing something, when the opposite is actually true.

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