Next week, the XXXI Olympiad will kick off in Rio. By the time the 10,500 athletes from a record 206 countries file into the Maracanã stadium, in front of a global TV audience of nearly one billion, the Olympics will have cost the Brazilian government almost $12 billion—$2 billion of it on security alone. Whole sections of the city have been reconfigured, new transport systems built, and tens of thousands of people uprooted.
This gargantuan spectacle is light years way from the original vision ofBaron Pierre de Coubertin, the French aristocrat who founded the modern Olympics, says David Goldblatt, author of The Games: A Global History Of The Olympics. Talking from his home in Bristol, England, he explains how the very scale and cost of today’s Olympics may spell their doom; why women were not allowed to compete in track events beyond 200 meters until 1968; and why Usain Bolt’s bid to be the fastest man on earth for the third time will be one of the greatest moments in Olympic history.