For the past two weeks, the world has focused its attention on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As always, they have been a display of some of the most impressive athleticism on Earth. The likes of Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, and Simone Biles dazzled millions in an Olympics that saw world and Olympic records somehow continue to be shattered. Nations large and small united behind their competitors, cheering them on to gold.
According to the official Rio 2016 website, a total of 208 countries and territories participated in the 2016 games. For the athletes and fans from 207 of them, the 2016 Olympics in Rio have been an experience of pure excitement and fun.
One country, however, has had more complicated feelings about the event. Brazil’s decision to take on the role of host raised both eager anticipate/on as well as controversy among Brazilians. Now that the party is over, Brazilians no longer have the games to look forward to, but rather the long-term consequences – positive or negative – that hosting the games will bring about.
The Reporter contacted four former MNSU students from Brazil to gauge what Brazilians are feeling in the wake of Rio 2016.
Radarane Sena of Minas Gerais returned from MNSU to Brazil in December of 2015.
“I like the Olympics a lot and I think it’s a fantastic event,” she says. “However, our country is passing through complicated times. The political and economic crisis is becoming worse and worse,” she adds, referencing the major corruption scandal that surfaced earlier this year, throwing Brazil into a state of mayhem. The scandal deals largely with the misuse of funds for Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras and has resulted in the suspension of Dilma Rousseff’s presidency, according to BBC News. Writing for Vox, Zach Beauchamp goes so far as to call it “the biggest corruption scandal in the history of modern democracy.”
“Maybe if the country were in better conditions, I would be happier with the Olympics, but I think that we will have more problems as a result of them,” says Sena.
“For Rio to host the Olympics games it has demanded a lot of money and – to be honest – I really don’t know from where we got it from,” says Matheus Chequin of the state of São Paulo.
“Infrastructure spending was huge and we need urgent investments in education, health, and safety. A lot of money was used to build structures that our country will probably not keep.”
Brazil is no stranger to hosting major global events. In little over three years, it has hosted three. In 2013, Rio held World Youth Day, an event which drew Pope Francis and some three million people to its final mass, according to an article by the Associated Press, most of them young Catholics, and in 2014, Brazil played host to the pinnacle of international soccer, the FIFA World Cup. Brazil is also used to being viewed with skepticism for taking on such events, an attitude that Luan Brito of Bahia pushes against.
“I didn’t see any difference between the last three Olympic Games and Rio 2016,” he says, arguing that major events held in developing countries such as the past two World Cups in South Africa and Brazil have proven successful, despite harsh criticism from the press around the world.
“Both of them were amazing, but before the kick-off, these events had many, many critics.”
He cites global recognition of Brazil, increased interest in sport, and improvements in transportation infrastructure as signs that the 2016 Olympics will have a positive lasting effect on the country.
Eduardo Francis of the state of São Paulo, echoes this optimism.
“Despite the terrible political and economic situation, with the Olympics we were able to demonstrate again that we always seek to treat our guests in the best way possible, always with open arms like Christ the Redeemer,” he says, making reference to the iconic “Cristo Redentor” statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro.