RITIKA SALUI : The Rio Summer Olympics of 2016 was controversial right from the get go. Starting from concerns regarding the outspread of the Zika virus, to serious health and sanitization issues, the Games were riddled with a ridiculously large number of issues. However one of the biggest issues that plagued the Games was whether Brazil would be capable of conducting the games amidst the political and financial crises they were facing.
This article will deal with the political scenario during the Games and the economic condition before and after the event. Addressing the political issue first, it started in the year 2014. Termed as “Operation Car Wash”, a multi-layer corruption scandal slowly started unfolding which led to numerous protests and unrests in Brazil throughout 2015 and 2016. The energy producing company Petrobas was in the center of it all. It was a state owned company in which many politicians from the ruling party had taken bribes to release contracts under the Petrobas. The most shocking part about this was the involvement of the country’s President Dilma Rousseff. She was ultimately removed from office in 2016, and replaced by the country’s Vice President. This decision taken by the country’s Federal Department had a direct impact on the Games and the country’s economy. The entire country was divided into two sects—– one which supported the disgraced President and the opposition. It was reported that in 2016, Brazil was facing the worst economic situation they had ever faced. This left everyone in doubt whether they would be able to conduct the Games. Millions of people took to the streets in protest and around 1.5 million people were even arrested. In fact 2015-2016 saw the rise of violent gang crimes. All in all, the political scenario was unfavorable right at the time the Olympics were supposed to be held. The security and police forces tried their very best to pacify this turbulent atmosphere by starting the “Pacification” operation. However the outcome was much worse than expected as it led to more deaths and protests. This also put into light the security problems that might arise from conducting the games. There were a total of 2036 deaths in the first six months of 2016 alone in Rio de Janeiro. In fact there were several terrorist and criminal activities taking place, which included murder near the beach where the Olympic Volleyball championship was being carried out and jihadi terrorists plotting to launch attacks. Within the Olympic village, athletes and coaches faced issues like getting robbed at gunpoint and fire scares.
Coming to the next major issue— the economic dilemma and aftermath of conducting the Games. Brazil spent a total of $4.6 billion dollars. The local people were upset with the government for taking up such a costly endeavour when thousands of Brazilians were roaming homeless and the country was going through a political and economic turmoil. The Olympics village built was the largest ever andalso the costliest. In a time when the country was going through recession, it was hailed as the worst decision to use up so much money to finance such an expensive project, especially when the Village remains defunct and unused in the present day. Not only that, the project was way behind schedule and required extra funds to be completed on time. Moreover two weeks before athletes were scheduled to arrive, the village had no power, water, proper heating or even proper toilets. In fact the Australian team had refused to stay there for the first few days as they described the conditions as un-liveable. There were major reports of gas leaks and unavailability of several basic amenities. The Organising Committee at that time had admitted in an interview that more than half the buildings built had yet to undergo safety checks and measures, one week before the commencement of the event. The Village was built with the notion that the surrounding backward communities would be employed for its construction. Moreover it was also believed that these communities would get to enjoy using the Village after the completion of the Games, as it was proposed that they would be turned into public schools, luxury condominiums and so on. However in the present day the village lies idle, with most of lying in ruins, unused and shrouded in the dark macabre of all the promises made by the politicians. The locals feel they have been cheated as they did not receive the number of employment opportunities they were made to believe were going to arise and also because most of the Village has been shut down in the present day. Even the expensive stadiums and pools that were built, are not used today. It is a constant reminder of how much of a failure the entire endeavour was for Brazil. The billions spent were not fruitful as the aftermath of it all plunged the country into darker times. It is estimated that roughly Brazil made losses worth GBP 1.5 billion pounds, of which only a partial amount could be recovered.
If we analyse as to why the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics of 2016 was a failure for Brazil, a number of issues can be pinpointed out. However, many experts believe that the major cause was Brazil’s overconfidence in committing to a project which was not their cup of tea. They neither had the funds, nor the expertise or financial stability to back such a global event. They were not well prepared for the political scandals and increased criminal activities that would mar the Games. Lastly they did not have any contingency plans that would put the Village to a good use so that they could recover lost money after the completion of the games.