Three of the largest media events in the world are about to kick off over the next three weeks and two of them have all the earmarks of an explosive epic failure: The Republican National Convention in Cleveland, OH, headed by presumptive nominee Donald Trump (happening July 18th to 22nd) and the Olympics in Rio (happening August 5th through 21st).
Yes, the Democratic National Convention is stuffed in between these two events but it doesn’t elicit the same type of NASCAR-crash buzz that the other events do. Every story you hear out of Rio is disaster. The subways don’t work. The sewage system doesn’t work. The Zika virus. Cleveland isn’t much better. Questions abound about whether Cleveland can afford the RNC let alone keep people safe in this tense American summer. Which begs the question: On the scale running from Superman vs. Batman created disaster to the Baltimore riots just how much of a cultural, financial and human rights failure might each of these events be? Further, which one will be worse? We decided to break out a comparison.
There are over 50,000 people (press included) coming to Cleveland for the RNC and the city will have about 4,000 police on hand. There are half a million people expected to attend the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with about 85,000 security forces on hand. By ratio alone Rio seems to have the advantage having roughly one cop for every 5 event attendees. While Cleveland managed to handle the Cavalier’s championship parade with flying colors and minimal arrests the Convention is a whole other animal. That city has no idea what they’re facing with a Trump-led Republican convention in an open carry state in the midst of the most contentious American protest summer in 50 years. The Rio Police are primed and ready, and their guns and tear gas are still warm from putting down unrest during the World Cup protests just two years ago.
Large conventions and sporting events usually don’t pan out financially the way that the locals want them to. Chicago is still on the hook for $140 million in just trying to bid for the 2016 Olympics. Trump’s fundraising has been so bad, and his reputation has scared off so many would-be donors that the city was begging people to make up a 6 million dollar shortfall a week before the confetti falls. However that’s nothing compared to the Rio Olympics. The Olympics are currently running 50 percent over budget at $4.6 billion and the first javelin hasn’t been thrown yet. Cleveland can make up that $6 million raffling a few signed LeBron jerseys to big time RNC donors. Rio will be paying off their debt until Usain Bolt’s grandkids are collecting gold medals.
Cleveland is no longer the mistake by the lake, but it is still … Cleveland. The city has a revitalized downtown but the row of abandoned buildings on the waterfront still look like a hideout for some Batman villain. Cleveland mass transit is almost non-existent and hotel accommodations are very spread out. However the city is cheap, has decent food and plenty of trendy bars that won’t charge you New York rent for a drink. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited places on the planet and the weather, food and hospitality are top notch. There’s also the Zika virus. The horrible disease that mutates your future children that has spread throughout the southern hemisphere like Bird flu on steroids. It’s close but in the end, Rio wins. Once you cover your body with the requisite amount of bug spray you’re still in one of the top 10 tourist destinations on planet earth in Rio de Janeiro no matter how bad the Olympics may be. No matter how much perfume you put on, you’re still in Cleveland. And you’re still at the Republican convention.
The biggest draw to both the Republican convention in Cleveland and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is the chance to see and possibly meet big name celebrities or leaders that you admire. Unfortunately for Americans both events are going to be somewhat lacking this year. Large numbers of big name Republicans have decided to skip the RNC this year for some strange reason that never actually includes saying the name “Trump” out loud. If you’re a fan of Sarah Palin, you’re out of luck, she’s not going, apparently Alaska is just too far a flight. Neither will George W. Bush, George H. Bush, the 2008 or 2012 Republican nominees or most of the major contenders for the 2016 nomination, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal. Even John Kasich the Republican governor of Ohio has decided to stay home and wash his hair rather than attend the convention of his own party.
While Trump teased some big name speakers like Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Mike Ditka and Bobby Knight (can you really call Mike Tyson a speaker?) none of them are going to hit the stage in Cleveland. Instead what you’re getting is Chris Christie, the preeminent Trump
hostage supporter, former soap Star Antonio Sabato Jr., one hit and one note ‘social critic’ Stacy Dash and former Charles in Charge Star Scott Baio. In other words this speakers list would be pretty lit … In 1988.
The Olympics has disappointments as well. Some of our Biggest American sports stars, Tiger Woods (still), LeBron James and Steph Curry won’t be in attendance due to a mixture of needing rest and fears of the Zika virus. On the other hand, there will still be a pretty good show with the Olympic basketball team featuring Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Plus Serena is going. And Serena is everything. So there you go.
Jason Johnson, political editor at The Root, is a professor of political science at Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera International, Fox Business News and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Follow him on Twitter.