With the Zika virus kicking up rumpus in Brazil, there is growing discussion about moving the 2016 Olympics from Rio de Janeiro. However, the Olympics are so big and costly that few countries could attempt to take the Games with just six months to prepare. It’s a big ask.Beijing and London, host cities of the 2008 and 2012 Games, would probably be the best bets to take over if Zika forced Rio to defer. Both cities have the facilities and recent experience in organising the biggest multi-sport event in the world. With the schedule as tight as it is, those inputs are critical.One wonders whether all the other inputs could be mobilised in time. Volunteers play a huge role in running the sporting events and visitor hospitality, and by this stage their recruitment would need to be in top gear already. Even in the case of London, work might be needed to polish and shine the stadia that housed sporting contests four years ago. This requirement would be even greater for Beijing.Even so, their venue costs would be far less.Neither city may want to take up the challenge if Rio is out. Added to that, hosting the Olympics isn’t cheap. Beijing reportedly spent US$40 billion in 2008 and London shelled out US$13 billion in 2012. The Rio figure keeps morphing, but is probably some in-between the two. That’s not chump change.NO BEIJING OR LONDONWith the short time to prepare and the costs, it’s a good guess that Beijing and London won’t come running as substitute venues this year.If the Zika threat clears soon, the best bet will be for Rio to host the Games as planned. If the mosquito-borne virus infects the Games schedule, we could end up with an Olympics in 2017.With Brazil spending tons of cash to get ready, it’s going to be hard on that sports-loving nation to be left with a big bill, no Games and none of the financial benefits from increased tourism income.It follows then that if the Zika threat causes a postponement but is resolved by year end, the world’s best athletes could be doing the samba next summer. That’s the only solution that leaves Brazil with the Games it has worked so hard to prepare for.For everyone’s health and for the sake of the Games, we can only hope the Zika solution comes very quickly.n Hubert Lawrence attended the Games in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London.
160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I marvel at our ability to delude ourselves. The latest example is the 17th annual Retirement Confidence Survey, a comprehensive study of Americans’ attitudes toward retirement and preparedness (or lack of) for it. Through the years, American workers have displayed an unrealistic confidence that they’ll have enough money to retire comfortably. This year’s results, in the face of widespread cuts in employer-provided benefits, reach a new level of self-delusion. “American workers may be slow in recognizing how the U.S. retirement system is changing,” the survey found, “and those who are aware of these changes may not be adapting to them in ways that are likely to secure them a comfortable retirement.” The not-for-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute and the research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates, which have sponsored this survey since 1991, like to use mild language like this. I will be more blunt. American workers are dreaming they’ll be all right in retirement — this year 72 percent are confident — even though they’ve saved a pittance or in some cases nothing. In this dream, most think they’ll get Social Security benefits before they’re actually eligible. Many are counting on pension, health and long-term care benefits they won’t have. They underestimate the amount of money they’ll need and overestimate how long they’ll be able to work. Judge for yourself: Only 41 percent of more than 1,000 workers surveyed said they or their spouse have a “defined-benefit” plan that offers a monthly pension for life. Yet, although many employers are eliminating these plans, 62 percent of workers say they are expecting to receive income from one in retirement (how is that for wishful thinking?) And 41 percent expect to receive retiree health insurance even though the number of employers offering this benefit is rapidly declining. One in four workers and more than a third of 251 retirees surveyed say they have long-term care insurance (separate from health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid). Industry estimates are that only 10 percent of Americans 65 and over have such insurance, “suggesting that many are counting on coverage they do not actually have,” the survey said. Americans’ savings levels are “modest,” the survey found. One-third of workers 55 and over, the group with the most savings, have less than $25,000. Fewer than half have saved more than $100,000. One third of workers 45 and over are not saving anything for retirement and less than half have even tried to calculate how much they will need. Despite a 10-year government campaign to educate the public, including the mailing of individual statements, a mere 19 percent of workers — and only 42 percent of those 55 and over — know when they will be eligible for unreduced Social Security benefits (the age of eligibility is rising gradually until it reaches 67 in 2027). Worse, 51 percent of workers believe they will be eligible before they are. For the one-third of workers who have not saved a dime for retirement, Social Security is the largest expected source of retirement income. More than one-fourth of workers estimate it takes less than $250,000 in savings to retire. (Invested at 5 percent, $250,000 would bring in only $12,500 a year — before taxes). Time to wake up?— Humberto Cruz offers personal finance advice each Thursday and answers readers’ questions each Saturday. Write him atAskHumberto@aol.com. read more