I have just listened to , for the 500th time , the major network news account of the RYAN LOCHTE ? USA SWIMMERS story of their experience in Rio.
“I over exaggerated the story “. says Lochte again and again. Perhaps. OK. Yes. But consider the circumstances.
Medal winning USA swimmers go out one night to celebrate in Rio. Undisputably the party capital of the world. What “normal” male in his right mind would travel to Rio de Janiero , Brazil and NOT find an excuse to go out and party ?
But something went awry when LOCHTE and his buddies were returniing to their hotel at 3 AM. They needed to pee so they told their taxi driver ( no one drinking and driving here ) to pull into a gas station. OK. They got out to find that the bathrooms were locked. But, not speaking Portugeuse, they did not know how to ask the security guards to unlock them. Instaed , they did what any half inibriated guys would do in an emergency. They urinated in the grass outside the gas station. No big deal, so far. But LOCHTE , on his way back to the taxi, saw a small sign in Portugeuse that he wanted to take home as a ” souvevir ” . Small mistake . But still a mistake . Then , going back to the taxi, one of the security uniformed security guards showed his badge and pointed a gun at LOCHTE. And probably said in PORTUGEUSE ” Stay where you are until the police arrive …”
The guard was thinking “Gringo tourist, misdemeanor crime but let’s make it into something . He is a tourist, he is not from here, and he has LOTS of money.” Let’s wait until the real police show up. They can diffuse the situation and clear everything up…… Right? Hmmmmm. We’ll see. NOTE that the small sign never leaves the premises.
So LOCHTE is thinking , ” I have never had a loaded gun in my face. This is serious. I could die here. And looking at the badge, , the uniform, and the gun , he doesn’t know if these guys are really any kind of police or NOT. They could be off duty police moonlighting, or they could be private “rent a cops ” as they say abroad. If you travel at all , especially in latin america, you know that there are armed guards EVERYWHERE that money is exchanged hands. Super markets, gas stations, banks, pharmacies. . It is not that there are robberies every 5 minutes. It is just that the presence of armed security discourages the “bad guys” .
WELL after a wait, the Brazilain Police show up and take Lochte and friends to the police station “for questioning ” . The questioning consists of “asking” LOCHTE and friends for $40,000 USD to release them and return their passports. WHAT ? The police finally agree to accept $10,000 USD. If that happened to a foreign athlete in a small town in Georgia, it would be a diplomatic storm . HUGE.
When LOCHTE and his friends finally arrive at their hotel they are understandably shaken. Returning after curfew, guns pointed at us, taken to a police station, shaken down for $10,000 ( did we do the right thing by paying them and not calling the American Embassy ?) What do we say to our coaches ? Where do we start ?
But when the US Press gets a hold of it the next morning . No time for investigative reporting. Let’s just take this and run with it. So it becomes
” BAD BOY ATHLETES IN RIO . THE UGLY AMERICANS . ” The US Press fails to investigate and talk about all of the facts. Just the “facts” that support their story about a scandal.
You know, I can identify with LOCHTE and his friends here. I have owned and operated my ocean front villas in Margarita Island Venezuela for more than a decade. And I have seen and experienced “shake downs” targeting foreign businesses and tourists. In my experience , being a gringo, , I was charged $1500 for a occupancy permit . A Venezuelan would pay $500 for a small B and B or hotel. But that wasn’t bad for me . I paid it. THEN a few years later , in 2008 the Chavista Federales thinking in petro dollars deanded that I pay $45,000. WHAT ? I dug in my heels and said NO.
And I closed the villas. . Basically the Venezuela government had “kicked to the curb” 18 families ( or more ) that recieved benfits from working at our villas.
So, I can see what a reporter from NBC NEWS can NOT see. And what the average US Joe who has never travled abroad can ot see.
Thinking ” If it is on NBC NEWS it must be true. ” Yeah….Right.