Blood, sweat and tears — and no, I’m not talking about the athletes …
The Olympics in Brazil has only put additional stress on an already strained market, and a country stricken by poverty with a dysfunctional health system.
The USA may have soared to the top of the medal table with 30 golds, closely followed by Great Britain and China at 19. Yet the superficial mask of the Olympics is slowly peeling away, uncovering the tragedy it has brought. We know the effects the Olympics had on Athens in 2004 and the soar in Barcelona’s economy in 1992. However, now we are starting to question if Rio will suffer Athens’ economic ruin after the end of these Olympics.
Brazil is in its third year of recession and in the process of impeaching their President, Dilma Rousseff. Additionally, China announced their economy is slowing, revealing to the world Brazil’s heavy reliance on the country as a main source of trade. This was before the monumental cost of the Olympics. Estimated figures show an expenditure of $15 billion to superficially change the face of Rio.
We all recognise the towering tall buildings known as The Olympic Village. Yet instead of being constructed in a way that would have benefited the local population as a whole, the people who were already wealthy became wealthier and those who were surviving on the margins and living in favelas, were pushed further out. A case of the wealthy man’s gain? Arguably so.
Capital investment leads to capital heartbreak, as the Olympic Games prove to bring more than just the Olympics. Rio was praised as being the first South American country to be awarded the Olympic Games. We all blindly congratulated them ignoring that 119 favela communities would be destroyed. This affected hundreds of thousands of people, in what was an unparalleled reconstruction of the city.
The civil society group, Popular Committee for the World Cup and Olympics calculated that 22,059 families have been evicted across the city between 2009 and 2015. In particular, 95 per cent of the village Vila Autódromo was levelled to make way for Olympic infrastructure. Many of the 800 families who were ordered to move refused. People questioned why they would want to stay. We should maybe ask those people how they would feel about leaving their home.
The World Cup was forced upon the people, the Olympics was forced upon them; ordinary Brazilians were forced to leave their homes. Considering the wealth of the rich, they ought to have been provided with suitable alternative housing. But that just didn’t happen. Families were bundled into communities away from their relatives and friends, frequently into dangerous areas filled with crime.
So there you have it, a so-called, ‘magical event’ has weakened social order and stimulated more violence, leading to more poverty and distress. Affected families have even said that the housing supplied by the Government is ridden with hidden expenses. The wealthy have used this as an opportunity to extract more money from the helpless, charging highly for necessities that we ordinarily take for granted.
You think you hate public transport’s reliability as you silently rage at TFL on your delayed train? Well at least you have access to a multi-network transport system that can take you almost anywhere and everywhere. Many bus links have been abolished in Rio to make way for the Olympics, making commutes harder for residents. Bottom line: Brazil cares more about the Olympics and its international reputation than the needs of its own citizens.
The idea of superficial change is an important one. ‘The face of the city was changing but not the faces of the people who gained from these processes’ said journalist Juliana Barbassa. How many more times do we need to highlight that if we look beyond the fanfare of the Olympics, all we have is the wealthy getting wealthier and the poor getting poorer. Many complain of the seemingly bottomless pit of money available for spectacular events. And yet, when it comes to tackling poverty, education and living conditions, money falls short — something that doesn’t seem to change.
We sit and congratulate the record-breaking athletes, forgetting to acknowledge the cost of such entertainment. The Olympics is not the only contest going on in August. The rising stakes of becoming richer in Brazil has got businessmen and landlords busy dividing society and isolating the poor from their homes. Once again the Olympics has masked the horror that goes on behind Usain Bolt’s track victories and Simone Biles’ flawless floor routine.
Not even Michael Phelps’ ‘dolphin back’ can disguise the sadness and distress the Olympics has cost the people of Rio. As they said at the airport: ‘welcome to hell’, their hell.