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Brazil: The challenge of hosting a worthwhile Olympic Games

For the very first time, in 2016 a South American country will be a host city for the Olympic Games. With a mix of satisfaction and concerns, Brazilian people have been celebrating and speaking out about the worries and joys that come with such responsibility. On one hand, it is going to be a fantastic opportunity for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil as whole: there will be an increase in investment in the city and it will do a lot in terms of confidence building - in fact, Brazilians have already experienced a confidence boost after the country outbid more developed nations to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

On the other hand, there are arguments against the event being hosted in Rio, side by side with the very old discussion about whether sport events are good or not for society. Many bloggers have pointed out Brazilian social problems, such as violence, social inequality and corruption, as obstacles to the success of the games. Regardless of the dimension of the task, the Brazilian reaction is very peculiar, always with a wry touch of humor.

Frank/Published with permission

See, it hasn't even started yet and I got three golds in triple assault. Frank/Published with permission

The Pombo sem Asa [pt] blog shows this particular atmosphere, making a list of some cartoons vividly depicting how Brazilians reacted to the victory:

A poeira da festa carioca em Copenhague ainda nem tinha baixado quando a internet foi invadida: aros olímpicos em forma de algemas, Cristo Redentor de mãos ao alto, Mussum tripudiando em cima de Obama, na esteira da vitória do Rio, que vai sediar os Jogos de 2016, euforia e ironia crescem na mesma velocidade.

Na maioria dos casos, as piadas usam do bom humor para criticar as mazelas sociais da capital carioca. Mas sobrou espaço também para tirar onda com o maior rival da campanha, a Chicago de Barack Obama.

Na hora de escolher o mascote para os Jogos de 2016, a criatividade atirou para todos os lados. Blanka, personagem brasileiro do jogo Street Fighter, virou figurinha fácil na internet acompanhando o logo da candidatura. Mas o humor ácido também apareceu: uma sorridente bala de revólver com os dizeres “perdida por você” logo apareceu como candidata a mascote.

Hardly had the dust settled after the party in Copenhagen when the Internet was flooded with handcuff Olympic rings, Christ the Redeemer throwing his hands up, Mussum taking the piss out of Obama following the victory of Rio, the city that will host the 2016 Olympic Games; euphoria and irony go side by side.

In most cases, the funny jokes criticize the social ills of the ‘carioca‘ city. But there are also a lot of jokes mocking the main Rio rival in the bid: Barack Obama's Chicago.

When it comes to choosing a mascot for the 2016 Games, creativity abounds. Blanka, the Brazilian character of the Street Fighter game, has been everywhere on the Internet alongside the bid slogan. Nevertheless, the wry sense of humor is also around: a smiling stray bullet with the phrase “missing you” soon appeared as a mascot candidate.

Captured from blog Pombo sem Asa

Captured from blog Pombo sem Asa

Captured from blog Pombo sem Asa

On the top, the stray bullet cartoon with the phrase "missing you". On the left hand side, the late and beloved Brazilian comedian Mussum mocks Obama's slogan, and on the right hand side the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge with the same phrase "Yes, we créu!" that has been doing the rounds on the Internet and has even gained an entry on Wikipedia. Below, the character Blanka also as as mascot. Captured from blog Pombo sem Asa

Charge by @eviljovemnerd

Art by @eviljovemnerd

Check the meaning of “Yes We Créu” in a previous Global Voices post.

Despite being worried about all of that, Josselene Marques [pt] hopes that the country and the city manage to organize a great games in 2016 and that Rio overcomes most of its problem in the forthcoming years.

Particularmente, vejo como principais pontos positivos, desta conquista, a geração de novos postos de trabalho, melhorias na parte urbana da Cidade Maravilhosa, aumento do interesse pelo esporte e mais investimentos na segurança. Será muito bom também para os nossos países-irmãos, pois a atenção do mundo estará voltada para a América do Sul.

No entanto, surge uma preocupação: grande parte dos meus compatriotas, indubitavelmente, se distrairá com o megaevento. Sem querer estereotipar e já estereotipando, o brasileiro se envolve de maneira apaixonada em tudo quanto faz. Uma vez entretidos, por todo esse período, muitos se esquecerão de refletir, questionar e continuar reivindicando melhores condições de vida. Cientes disto, precisamos ficar atentos a fim de evitarmos que o emprego de recursos financeiros em setores essenciais seja relegado em virtude das reformas que deverão ser feitas na cidade.
Pergunto: como estará o nosso país daqui a sete anos? Infelizmente, não posso responder a esta indagação. Espero e desejo que esteja bem melhor que hoje. (…)
Uma coisa é certa: no que depender dos brasileiros, atletas, oficiais, jornalistas e espectadores serão recebidos de braços abertos não só pelo nosso povo hospitaleiro, mas também pelo próprio Cristo.
Sejam todos bem-vindos ao Brasil!

I see mostly the main positive aspects of this victory: new job opportunities, improvements in the urban area of the Wonderful City, increase in sport interest and more investment in security. It will be very good for all neighboring countries too, because South America will be the centre of the world's attention.

Nevertheless, there is cause for concern: many of my compatriots will, doubtless, be distracted by the huge event. I don't want to stereotype them, but Brazilian people do get involved so deeply and passionately in everything they do. Amused for all this time, many of them will forget to think, raise questions and keep asking for improved living conditions. Aware of this, we need to pay attention to avoid the use of financial resources in essential areas being dismissed in the face of the redevelopment that the city will undergo.

I ask: how will our country be in 7 years from now? Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question. I hope and wish that it will be much better than today. […]

But I know one thing: if it is up to Brazilians, all athletes, officers, journalists and spectators will have a warm welcome, not only from our hospitable people, but also from Christ the Redeemer himself.

Welcome all to Brazil!

Lessons from Rio 2007

To curb corruption and public administration mismanagement in the run up to Rio 2016, sectors from the government and civil society have already created online forums for the population to follow closely the public spending on the games. Among them, there is the Twitter account @FiscalizaRJ2016 (Rio de Janeiro 2016 Supervision, in English), which has been updating about the games project. There is also the website Transparência Olímpica [pt] (Olympic Transparency, in English) created by the Olympic Committee in charge of organizing the 2016 Olympics.

Nevertheless, the main worries making some specialists pay double the attention to the way that Rio 2016 is going to be organized are the memories of the Pan-American Games which took place in Rio in 2007. To begin with, the initial budget for Rio 2007 of almost R$ 600 million (approximately $ 350 million) ended up as bill of R$ 4 billion (approximately $ 2.4 billion) in the pockets of taxpayers. José Roberto Paraíso [pt] explains to Hugo, a reader of his blog, that despite the risks of mismanagement, the Games is worthwhile and that the problem is not the sporting event itself, but the way that the government and citizens behave:

O número representa, mais ou menos, 800 % a mais do previsto. Quer dizer, houve um erro muito grosseiro no calculo, o que deixa – e com muita razão – brasileiros, como o Hugo, desconfiados, desanimados e indignados.

Desconfiados por achar que os bilhões a mais não foram para a realização do evento e sim para o bolso de alguns ratos. Desanimado ao imaginar que a roubalheira pode acontecer em dose pior nas Olimpíadas de 2016. E indignados por não ver ninguém atrás das grades.

Como se pode ver, meu caro Hugo, o Pan 2007 não é exemplo para ser seguido nas Olimpíadas no que diz respeito a transparência, e no gasto, do dinheiro público.

Agora, o superfaturamento do Pan, contudo, não pode ser motivo para ser contra as Olimpíadas. Se a ganância de alguns não atrapalhar, a competição pode trazer muitos benefícios para o país, como empregos, turistas e respeito internacional.

Os brasileiros, portanto, devem ser contra a corrupção. Cobrar punição dos ladrões do colarinho branco e, em 2010, não eleger os sugadores do dinheiro público.

The [PAN games] cost was, more or less, 800% over the expected budget. In other words, there was an awful miscalculation, which makes many Brazilians like Hugo become suspicious, discouraged and outraged – fair enough.

They are suspicious because they think that the extra billions didn't go to the event organization itself, but they ended up in the pockets of some ‘rats’. Discouraged because they imagine that the robbery can happen again on a much worse scale during the 2016 games. And, outraged at not seeing anybody behind bars.
As you can see, my dear Hugo, concerning respect, transparency and public spending, the Pan 2007 is not an example to be followed by the Olympic Games.

However, the Pan going over budget cannot be a reason for us to oppose hosting the Olympic Games. If the greed of some people doesn't get in the way, the Games may bring many benefits to the country, such as employment, tourism and international respect.
Brazilians have to be against corruption though. By demanding that white-collar thieves be punished and not electing public-money leeches in 2010.

Benhur-Rava [pt] agrees with this point of view, adding that the best way to avoid corruption is applying precaution and supervision:

Por isso a lembrança da precaução, já que estarão em jogo – juro que não é ironia – quantias consideráveis de recursos públicos e a incerteza sobre a sua correta aplicação pelos órgãos públicos. Corre-se o risco da malversação e desvio se não houver controles rígidos para evitar o desperdício, a fraude e a corrupção. Invariavelmente, o valor orçado de obras e compras termina custando o dobro ou o triplo. Quem conhece a Administração Pública sabe que isso não é fato isolado; é triste regra que afronta os princípios constitucionais da legalidade, da moralidade, da publicidade, da impessoalidade e da eficiência.

Uma força-tarefa com Ministério Público, Tribunais de Contas e Poder Legislativo pode detectar eventuais problemas, acompanhando e controlando investimentos e gastos. Precaução e fiscalização. O antes e o depois. Sete anos é tempo razoável para antecipar e precaver problemas. A lição de gastos superfaturados no Pan 2007 e o planejamento da Copa das Confederações, em 2013 e a Copa da Fifa, em 2014, ajudarão.
Agradece o esporte, fortalece-se a cidadania.

That's why we need to be reminded about precaution, because the Olympics will involve huge sums of public resources and the doubts the [money] will be spent correctly the public powers. There will be risks of mismanagement and the misuse of money if there are no strict controls to avoid waste, fraud and corruption. Invariably, redevelopment projects and purchase budgets end up costing double or triple first estimations. Those who know Public Administration, understand that this is not an isolated fact – it is a sad rule that disrespects the principles of constitutional laws, morality, publicity, impersonality and efficiency.

A taskforce made up by Public Ministry, Accountancy Courts and the Legislative power may spot possible problems, follow up and supervise investment and spending. Precaution and supervision. Before and after. Seven years is enough time to foresee and to avoid problems. The lessons learned with overpriced bills during Pan 2007 and the planning for Confederation Cup in 2013 and the World Cup in 2014 will give some support.
Sports thank all for that, and citizenship is strengthened.

The other worry it is about the destiny of the sporting facilities that, to start with, the public should have free access to, once the games have finished. The Pediatrist Daniel Becker, in an interview to Terra Magazine [pt], explained this. He said that most of the facilities built and refurbished for the Pan 2007 have been sold to the private sectors or shut. One of the arenas was acquired by HSBC bank and turned out to be now a stage for concerts and the Maria Lenke Aquatic Park, where the  swimming, diving and other competitions took place during the Games in 2007, has been shut down. For him, the Olympic Games hosted in Barcelona in 1992 should be an example followed by Rio 2016.

As the History teacher Guilherme Scalzilli concludes on his blog, exaggerated patriotism on one side and political pessimism on the other are not the best ways to behave before the Brazilian Olympic reality:

Os debates sobre a escolha do Rio de Janeiro para sediar as Olimpíadas de 2016 começaram empobrecidos por radicalismos apaixonados. Entre a cegueira patriótica e o rancor político-partidário, há pouco espaço ao meio-termo responsável.
Podemos dividir as objeções equivocadas em três enunciados simplificadores, que assumem formatos variáveis segundo as circunstâncias, inclusive nas discussões sobre a próxima Copa do Mundo: a) os brasileiros são indignos do privilégio; b) o país não está preparado para tanto; c) possuímos outras prioridades ou urgências. […]

O terceiro preceito utiliza retórica bem-intencionada, mas ignora os ganhos potenciais para a saúde, a educação e a cidadania proporcionados pelo esporte. Mesmo que discutamos investimento público (o privado virá apenas por causa dos Jogos), como distinguir os gastos obrigatórios dos supérfluos? Alguém pode propor a suspensão dos campeonatos de futebol para bancar a alfabetização, ou que hospitais sejam construídos com as fortunas “torradas” em exposições e festivais de cinema, teatro e dança.(…)

Acima de tudo, evitemos os perigos da condescendência. Para empreendimento dessa importância é fundamental promover um amplo choque de civilidade, a começar pelo cidadão comum. Por exemplo, os imbecis que vaiaram Lula na abertura do Pan-americano (e depois cinicamente comemoraram sua vitória olímpica) retornarão às arquibancadas. E os motoristas cariocas precisam entender que europeus acreditam em faixas de pedestres. Porém, enquanto os governantes se contentarem com favelas muradas, ônibus disfarçados de “metrô de superfície”, lagoas e praias infectas e banditismo policial, o padrão de qualidade continuará baseado no improviso, no paliativo, na malandragem “ishpérrta”.

The debates around the choice of Rio to host the Olympic Games in 2016 begun impoverished by passionate radicalism. Between the patriotic blindness and the party-political anger, there is little room for a responsible and balanced point of view. We can categorize the erroneous objections into three simplified sets, which appear in different formats according to the circumstances, including in the debate about the next World Cup: a) Brazilians are not worthy of such privilege; b) the country is not ready for that; c) we have other priorities or urgencies. […]

The third point makes use of a well-intentioned rhetoric, but it ignores potential gains for health, education and citizenship offered by sports. Even if we discuss investments (private investment will come just because of the games), how can we differentiate between essential and non-essential spending? Can anybody propose a ban on football championships in order to subsidize literacy, or that hospitals be built with those fortunes “burned” in exhibitions and film, theater and dance festivals? (…)

Above all, we have to avoid the danger of being condescending. It is essential that a huge “civilization shock” is promoted in order to undertake such enterprise, starting with the common citizen. For example, the idiots that booed Brazilian President Lula during the Pan 2007 opening ceremony (and then, afterwards, cynically celebrated his Olympic victory) will be back in the stands. And the ‘carioca’ drivers must understand that Europeans believe in zebra-crossings for pedestrians. Even though, while politicians feel satisfied with walled favelas, buses disguised as “overground” transport, polluted lakes and beaches and police banditry, the quality standard will remain based on improvisation, palliative solutions and street-smart malandragem [with Rio's accent].

1 comment

  • Eduardo

    Thiana, parabéns pela lucidez, foi a melhor análise que já li a respeito deste tema.

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