Hosting the Olympic Games is a mark of pride for any nation. It's no easy accomplishment, either -- once through the rigorous bid process, the host country must build new venues, enhance security measures and make final preparations for the athletes, officials and fans who will arrive en masse for the monumental event.
In Brazil, however, the lead-up to this summer's Olympics has seemed far from accomplished or celebratory. Major concerns abound, including the threat of the Zika virus, the state of Rio de Janeiro's polluted waterways and the capability of local police and other security details to keep visitors safe.
And while Brazil has made some strides in its recent efforts to tamp down corruption that has plagued the country, there is still much progress to be made -- a fact that is being laid bare in the midst of Olympic anxiety. The financial root of Brazil's corruption problem is illustrated in this excerpt from a Huffington Post article, "Were the Rio Olympics a Mistake?"
The Olympics in Brazil are unfortunately headed in a similar direction. Instead of using the games as a chance to boost and expand existing infrastructure to be of use to residents after the games are over, billions of dollars have been spent trying to (ineffectively) sweep crime and poverty under the rug, and build upscale developments for tourists that are unlikely to see much use by Rio residents in the long run. These developments may increase revenue from tourism for a couple months, but will ultimately do little besides put more money in the hands of private investors and wealthy individuals. Any benefit from the Olympic games conducted this way will be either temporary, or will fail to help the Rio residents who need it the most.
A similar Op/Ed in Eurasia Review underlined these concerns. In "The Not So Beautiful Game: The Corruption That Dogs The Olympics," the author sums up the biggest problems dogging the Rio Olympics thus far:
Brazil, the host of the upcoming 2016 Rio games has faced many problems, mostly of its own making. In late June, the acting governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro complained to Brazilian newspaper O Globo that his state had not yet been furnished with the federal funds it requires in order to ramp up security for the competition, saying “I am optimistic about the games, but I have to show the reality. We can make a great Olympics, but if some steps are not taken, it can be a big failure.” The financial problems the Games is causing for Brazil are already well-documented, as is the fact that poor Rio inhabitants are being forcibly pushed aside to make way for the Games. What Brazil could never have accounted for, however, is the devastatingly Zika crisis, which is prompting tourists and athletes alike to pull out of the tournament.
The problems swirling around the Olympics are only the beginning. Brazil is in the midst of a public perception crisis as the country's first female president, Dilma Rousseff, faces impeachment proceedings. It's the result of alleged fraud, and the issue has been simmering for at least two years. As the Los Angeles Times reported in "Brazil is in turmoil, an impeachment trial looms, and still, Dilma Rousseff laughs":
Rousseff has been suspended from office since May, when lawmakers voted to try her on charges of shifting public funds to cover deficits. Impeachment would remove her from office and make Temer president. Her trial looms as Brazil weathers rising unemployment, a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal and fears about crime and the Zika virus, all while preparing for the Olympics, which start Aug. 5.
But, as the Times notes, even those accusing Rousseff are likely not innocent themselves:
Rousseff enjoyed high approval ratings until 2013, but after her reelection in 2014, her popularity plummeted. Temer and much of Congress — a majority of whom are accused of corruption or serious crimes — turned on her and launched the controversial impeachment process.
Welcome to Brazil. Unfortunately, the Olympics might provide more excitement than just feats of athleticism. It may also put Brazil's unseemly corruption issues on the world stage. If the Summer Games manage to conclude smoothly and without any serious issues, that will be a victory in itself.