Ready for Rio?

BY: GAYATRI SRIRAM, CONTRIBUTOR

 

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are less than two weeks away.  The event, designed to honor athletes and countries across the globe, is not the awe-inspiring glamour you think it is.  In preparation, forced evictions are taking place across Rio to make room for the games.  With thousands of Brazilian favelas being destroyed, NPR describes how most Brazilian people have been moved to the OITI complex, a barren and treeless apartment complex.  And it gets worse: dangers such as the Zika virus, water pollution, crime, and financial upheaval flow rampant.  With deadlines looming over Brazil’s shoulders, it seems that the closer the event is, the worse the situation gets – foreshadowing the quality of the games that the competitors and the public are going to witness this year.

Some delegates have already abandoned housing assigned to them at the Olympic games.  According to the Wall Street Journal, on July 26, Rio officials admitted to delivering houses to the delegates without checking basic systems such as plumbing due to the lack of time. Australia’s delegation, in particular, faced apartments with poor lighting, toilets that cannot flush, and leaky pipes.  However, in recent days, the spokesman of Rio’s organizing committee, Mario Andrada, has assured the public that stress tests are being conducted, and will most likely be completed by July 28. Despite such progress, people remain concerned: Gerardo Werthein, head of the Argentine Olympic committee, says, “Although the Rio organizers say they are going to finish the repairs, we can’t risk it.”

Aside from inhabitable living conditions, crime poses a serious threat to the people involved in the summer games. The New York Times explains that due to Brazil’s recession and rising unemployment, crime and homicides have risen 24 and 15 percent, respectively. Given that the country possesses a strong evangelical movement, LGBT travelers, in particular, face an added layer danger .  But regardless of sexual orientation, everyone should take extra precautions.  Police officers, whose job it is to protect innocent people, have been greeting travelers at the airport with signs saying “Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”  Such a “brilliant” display of confidence by the Brazilian police force does not exactly do much to ease the looming fear that most Olympic travelers bring with them to Brazil.

“Things are getting uglier here every day. I advise everyone with plans to visit Brazil for the Olympics in Rio to stay in their country of origin. Your life will be in danger here.”

Rivaldo Ferreira, Brazilian soccer player

Thankfully, the Zika virus is at low risk.  According to Reuters Health, only six to eighty people are likely to be infected with Zika virus, with approximately one to sixteen likely to feel symptoms.  Experts reassure the public that these statistics illustrate worst case scenarios, implying that most encounters with the Zika virus aren’t too severe when people take the necessary precautions of applying bug spray.

The New York Times also describes how over 10,000 athletes will be competing in contaminated water, rife with human sewage.  Further, experts  describe how recent A.P. testing did not find a single place safe for boating or swimming.

It’s safe to say that a majority of these issues are due to Brazil’s existing economic debacle.  Having been hit by the recession, the government has made enormous spending cuts which should be used to restore public infrastructure.  In fact, with less than fifty days to go before the Olympics, Brazil declared financial emergency status.  This status, allowing Brazil to borrow funds without State legislature’s approval, has called attention from across the globe about the problems facing the country today.

 

Photo Credits: By Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons