With only two weeks left until Rio’s Olympics, many still wonder whether or not it will take place. These past four years have been chaotic, with corruption scandals, Dilma’s impeachment, the Zika Virus and financial debt, suggesting that the State of Rio de Janeiro is in no position to hold such a big event. Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympics back in 2009. Ironically the I.O.C believed that it could help the country develop faster and bring Brazil together.
The Olympics took its first big hit back in 2014 when Brazilian officials launched Operation Car Wash. Known as the country’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, Operation Car Wash investigated a total of 54 senior politicians including Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio da Silva. This investigation led to the discovery of a corruption scheme inside Petrobras, one of the largest oil companies in the world and a government owned facility. Executives accepted bribes in exchange for awarding construction contracts to companies with inflated prices. This together with sinking oil prices led to Brazil’s current recession.
This is Brazil’s worst recession in the past twenty five years. The economy in Rio de Janeiro has gotten so bad that the mayor, Eduardo Paes, issued a statement saying that the state had no more money to pay hospital staff, police and firefighters along with many other public servants. That led to uprisings from both firefighters and the police. They welcomed tourists in airports with signs saying: “Welcome to hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.” and “Don’t worry, in Rio only 54 cops were killed in this Olympics.” Additionally, hospitals can no longer treat non-emergency cases. In fact public hospitals can only treat heart attacks and bullet wounds. The governor of Rio, Francisco Dornelles. said that he had never seen a financial situation as tragic as this one.
A big issue right now is security. With policeman not being paid, the army, air force and navy will be patrolling the streets of Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics. Citizens see this as a great worry since these forces have been trained for combat, not patrolling cosmopolitan areas.
The Zika Virus also impacted the Olympics in a negative way. The Zika outbreak began in the country’s northeast and reached Rio in the beginning of 2016. Zika is transmitted through the mosquito Chikungunya and has been associated with birth defects such as microcephaly. Adults can get Guillain-Barré syndrome and disseminated encephalomyelitis. Both these diseases can be fatal. Even though Zika mostly affects pregnant women, some athletes said that they will not be attending the Olympics since the disease can also be transmitted through sexual contacts. Professional golfer Jason Day is an example.
For most Rio de Janeiro citizens the Olympics was never a good thing. Some “Cariocas” such as Antonio Fernando Slomp, 66, (my father) believe that “the Olympics is an excuse for the government to pour money on the wealthy parts of the city and completely neglect the others.” Citizens such as Carlos Alberto, 75, also noticed the government’s attempts to hide poverty, citing the walls that have been built between slums and roads and the cancellation of many bus lines that connect the more impoverished parts of Rio de Janeiro to the tourist areas.
Younger generations such as Maria Eduarda Mortari,15, also had a lot to say: “Brazil has many bigger problems at the moment. Problems that should be tackled urgently. Problems such as the lack of schools and hospitals. These should be the government’s priorities. I believe that the government is more interested in themselves than on the country. They aren’t focusing on making Brazil good again. A better place to live in. A safer place to live in. All they think about is how they can profit. How each of them as an individual can profit. How they can profit from the olympics!”
As Rio’s Mayor Paes said, the Olympics couldn’t have come in a worst time. “Every host city faces controversy in the build-up to the mega-event, but a combination of recession, security breakdowns, the Zika epidemic, the Brazil president’s impeachment, and corruption scandals damage Both Brazil’s and Rio’s image.” This is not the best moment to be in the eyes of the world.