Image via: The Sun
The Summer Olympics are an exciting spectacle, but Olympic Games hosting cities are rarely without controversy. Rio De Janeiro is no exception. The money spent to host such an immense global event, when there is such financial inequality, poverty and as a consequence crime in a host city, means ordinary people are torn. Between being proud of their country’s hosting capabilities, showcasing their culture, world heritage sites and tourism, whilst at the same time being understandably angry at the injustice of governments producing the resources to accommodate a huge event, when funds for local infrastructure, economy, housing, employment and social services are lacking.
Brazil’s economy has been growing steadily for the last decade and this is why it was awarded both the Summer Olympics in 2016 as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2014. The middle class has been expanding in Brazil and governments generally see events such as these as opportunities to invest in the infrastructure and economy and eventually generate jobs, tourism, revenue and improve public works for the locals. No doubt Brazilians have welcomed such a huge honour to host these events, particularly the World Cup – Football being a cultural phenomenon in Brazil and being without a doubt, the number one sport played in the country. Soccer is an institution in Brazil, having its own style and mystique renowned the world over. However, it is inevitable that the working classes are not only skeptical of the value these events will add to the Brazilian way of life, but also justifiably demanding of greater equality for the locals.
When projects go over budget, take exceedingly long periods to complete, or are not completed at all and when money is spent on hosting these events at the expense and detriment of governance that benefits the locals, people respond with demonstration. Events such as the Summer Olympics, while putting a spotlight on unity, sportsmanship, peaceful competition and inspiration, inevitably highlight societal inequality, corruption and conflict.
In Brazil, protestors threatened to extinguish the Olympic Flame as it traveled to its destination. One of the torchbearers himself participated in protesting the current Brazilian government, bearing a slogan painted on his arse. Consequently, security has been on high alert and this raises questions about people’s civil liberties and human rights, particularly in a country like Brazil where the police and security forces have a reputation for being especially brutal. It has been reported that processes of ‘pacification’ have been used to clean up the favelas to make them safe and accommodating to tourists and spectators. While drug traffickers are often the target, civilian collateral damage is not unusual and Amnesty International has been keeping a close eye on human rights violations in Rio.
While the Summer Olympics demonstrate the strength of the human spirit (for the first time ever, a team representing refugees – there are more than 60 million displaced people worldwide according to the UN – is competing), the Olympics is also a time to consider the greater imbalances and inequalities that plague our world and perhaps inspire the desire to want to make change.