Rio 2016 Preview: Brazil braces itself for the biggest Games ever and could still produce the best
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Sport has seldom seemed as serious as in the run-up to Rio – but the Games are about to begin! After all the outrage engulfing these Olympics – first the economic and political turbulence, next the water pollution and lagging preparations, then the doping scandal and the Zika virus – you could be forgiven for forgetting that the greatest sporting show on Earth is finally upon us. Barring any further catastrophes, the Olympic Games actually kick off in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, taking the largest multi-sport event in the world to South America for the first time. Despite its many problems, where could be better than the city of carnivals to host the biggest party on the planet? In fact, they have already broken records. Athletes from the largest number of countries in the history of the Olympics will come together in Rio, including debut entrants Kosovo, South Sudan and Team Refugee, ten athletes who have fled civil wars in their own countries. Athletes like the Syrian teenager Yusra Mardini, who swam for her life in the Aegean Sea and is now about to swim at Rio 2016. There are heroes in waiting: pioneering athletes aiming to win a first medal for their nation at these Games, such as the Kosovan judoka Majlinda Kelmendi and Bosnian middle-distance runner Abel Turka, who are both shouldering monumental expectations for their respective Balkan states. There are departing legends: champions who hope to bow out in style, such as swimming sensation Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, and the Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt, targeting a unique ‘triple-triple’ of three sprint titles that he has held since Beijing 2008.