Anticipating disastrous games in Rio… or just being prejudiced?
In a few days, Rio will be hosting South America’s first ever Olympic Games. Like all major sporting events, there is a great deal of expectation over records to be broken, new stars to be born and well-established celebrities to reinforce their reputation or disappoint fans all over the world.
However, the Rio games seem to be shrouded in a lot more than sports, laurel wreaths and medals. The XXXI Olympiad has already lost some of its shine following an array of problems that have cropped up since Rio was chosen seven years ago.Corruption scandals, health concerns, security issues and infrastructure problems have all plagued the games before they start and risk ruining the event like history has never seen before. Nevertheless, one must look at the risks rationally and in an unprejudiced manner.
Infrastructure will certainly be an issue. Rio’s international airport is being renovated and, in spite of earlier promises, will not be ready for the influx of people in August. Several of the facilities will be unfinished for use and a certain amount of improvisation will inevitably take place. To a certain extent there is nothing unexpected about this. The same happened for the World Cup in 2014 and it was still a fine competition. I happen to live in Campinas, a city five hours away from Rio. Our renovated airport was planned for early 2014 and delivered this year. Planning and turning plans into timely action is certainly not the best of our traits, and this year our attention was ever further deviated with the president’s impeachment process. It just took us a long time to put our minds to the Games.
Security also tends to be a concern both for Brazilians and foreign guests. However, security has been a concern in every major event the city has hosted since the Rio 1992 Summit, but never a problem. The city’s endemic violence has its origins in social inequality and the drug trade, not in ideological power struggles. It is not in the interest of any of the locals to spoil the event. Quite the contrary. Even drug dealers and pickpockets have a lot to gain from a smooth August in the city. Of course, I am not ignoring the possibility that some foreign terrorist group or lone psychopath may distill their insanity in the crowds gathered here. What I am saying, is that in that sense Rio is no more vulnerable than London, Beijing or Athens have been, maybe even a little less considering Brazil’s long-term commitment to peace.
And then there’s all the news about Zika virus and other terrible tropical diseases that seem to be plaguing Rio just like cannibals plagued Robinson Crusoe’s Island. Again, I must speak not in defense of Rio’s health system, which is below national standards, but against stupidity. Zika virus is a major concern for pregnant women, as it may damage the brains of fetuses. Apart from that, it has made as many fatal victims in the city as Geneva’s vicious poodles have there - none. I just wish sports people and particularly sportsmen like the Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, who claims to have given up the games over Zika virus concerns, had the decency to take responsibility for his decision and not blame it on the city.
My feeling is that many people expect Rio and Brazil to make some huge mistake during the games, so that they can roll their eyes back and say that they had warned everyone. If this happens, it will be in fact the manifestation of their prejudices justified by one single misfortune. Pretty much like when white supremacists grin at the news of some African American having committed a crime. One thing is to expect a blunder, another is to hope for one.
Brazil is certainly in a crisis. And by a crisis, I mean the moment when we are not as festive as we once were, simply because reality has hit us in the face. Endemic corruption is being faced and dealt with. Our economy is at its worse, but expected to start a slow recovery process. We are now rethinking our values, painfully becoming more politically mature. We have a strong reason to be welcoming hosts. Brazilians love to host and to welcome. It’s in our DNA. Rio is known to Brazilians as “The Wonderful City”, and I myself have been a lifetime lover of its dazzling beauty.I will be at the games and take my children with me. I certainly hope to see a lot of beautiful and happy people there.
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