The months leading up to the Olympic Games are supposed to be an exciting time for the host country. In a few months athletes from all over the world will convene in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics. One thing that’s seemingly absent from South America’s first Olympics on the continent? Public support for the games.
Brazil in 2009, when it was awarded the chance to host the Olympics, and Brazil today are two vastly different places. The country’s economy in 2009 was on the upswing, the middle class was growing, while today the country is in a recession.
In 2009, the Brazilian people were ecstatic about the games coming to their country. Now the people and the government are struggling financially and politically. The once popular President Dilma Rousseff is facing massive protests calling for her impeachment over alleged involvement in an oil scandal. The people of Brazil are in a completely different place than they were seven years ago when they found out they would be hosting the 2016 Olympics.
Today the upcoming sporting event pales in comparison to the issues plaguing South America’s largest country.
Brazilians are angry that public money is being allocated toward an expensive and temporary celebration of sport.
The host country does not keep all profits from the games; revenue is still split among shareholders.
A Brazilian sports journalist told NPR in January that the country will still “deliver good [Olympic] games.”
However, he added that it probably won’t matter much.
“People are concerned with more pressing, urgent things right now,” the journalist said.
Brazilians are not just ambivalent about the Olympics coming to the country, many are understandably upset.
“In 2009, the Brazilian people were ecstatic about the games coming to their country. Now the people and the government are struggling financially and politically”
Citizens call the games a huge contradiction in priorities. Health care in the country is becoming a problem.
State-run hospitals are getting budget cuts because the price of Brazilian oil is low. People are getting infected with the Zika virus. There is fear surrounding that virus, not only in Brazil now, but around the world. While locals fear for their health and struggle to get proper health care, multimillion-dollar venues are being constructed.
The juxtaposition of millions being spent in venues that will only be in use for 17 days while Brazilian people struggle with their finances is strong. These Olympics are costing the country an estimated 39.1 billion reais ($11,040,686,550 USD). These estimates come from a Reuters article from January.
Expenses include improvements to infrastructure, such as upgrading the existing subway system as well as the airport and roads. These are things that can serve Brazil’s capital for years to come. It is the construction of venues for the events that take a large toll on the economy.
Greece, a country that hosted the Olympics in 2008, is seeing results that may also happen in Brazil with many venues being unutilized years after the games leave the country.
The new venue and renovation projects in the country have ballooned to $10.2 billion USD, according to Business Insider, with inflation of the Brazilian real contributing to the cost. The construction has been interrupted with worker strikes more than once, but the country says projects will be 100 percent complete by August.
The country’s government took an opportunity to host the games when the nation was on more stable footing. Now, the South American nation is about to hold an event that will have an impact on the economy for years.
Even if the 2016 Summer Games are a huge success and Brazil wins lots of gold medals in August, the success will fade. If Olympic venues could continue to create jobs in the years after the excitement of the games, it would be great.
However, the past has shown that many countries’ arenas and stadiums are only a financial burden to maintain with little practical use.
When you watch the Summer Olympics in August, you can cheer on your favorite athletes but also keep in your thoughts the people in a nation that may have dug itself a Greek-like hole.