On the eve of the first Olympic games in South American history, anticipation and excitement has been overshadowed by complacency and blame as the city of Rio De Janeiro and the country of Brazil prepare last minute actions to pull off the biggest event in its nation’s history.
Copacabana Beach is an Olympic construction site. The beach volleyball venue is going up, broadcast studios rise on scaffolding above the sand and a mammoth tent is jammed with thousands of pricey souvenirs. But there are few signs across town in crumbling, working-class areas that the Rio de Janeiro Olympics open in just a week.
Promises that hosting the Games would remake even Rio’s most ramshackle neighborhoods have been eclipsed by myriad problems. Security threats and soaring violence, the Zika virus, slow ticket sales, and water pollution in venues for sailing, rowing and distance swimming. Body parts washed up on proposed Olympic beaches, and an Olympic village that is merely half complete with complaints of no electricity and leaking sewerage. Not to mention hanging over it all is the impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff, expected to start days after the Olympics end.
About 10,500 athletes and up to 500,000 foreign visitors are expected for the games.
Few will see the real Rio, where the poor are being pummeled by Brazil’s worst recession since the 1930s, soaring crime and unemployment over 10 percent. Most can’t afford an Olympic ticket or a $100 souvenir soccer ball emblazoned with the Olympic logo. If it’s not a catastrophe, the Olympics could provide Brazil with greater legitimacy. You attract a lot of people from all around the world. You have heads of state coming in. It puts you on the map, and if you’re doing well, it could have a tremendously positive impact. But it will require a lot to compensate for the negative press that is inevitably going to be out before, during and after the Olympics. If the Olympics is not a success, it will be economically catastrophic for Brazil. Who will showcase to the world everything they have to offer, the good, the bad and the ugly. Come the closing ceremony will be addressing praise and success to a country that embraces life with the motto “live your passion” or talking about crime, zika and how did the Olympic commitee let that happen.