By Deeksha Aggarwalla
Indians are well aware of how mega events like Asian Games and Commonwealth Games bring glory to the country. At the same time, they are also messengers of woes and scandals sometimes. Who can forget Suresh Kalmadi and all the corrupt activities that he indulged in? The Olympic park at Athens constructed for the 2004 games are supposedly desolate and defunct now. In fact, the expenditure on the games are sometimes, counted amongst the factors leading to the Greek Crisis.
Amongst this, when the author looks at Brazil which is going to host its second major event in two years, she cannot help but wonder. Rio De Janerio hosted the FIFA World Cup, 2014. Brazil was surrounded by controversies and scandals with regards to prostitution, mismanagement and more. To provide perspective, the stadiums were all finished last minute. In fact, an under construction underpass collapsed killing two men. A sting operation by the police led to the arrest of the FIFA’s World Cup hospitality provider being arrested. On top of all this, Brazil, one of the most successful teams, lost the world cup.
The preparations for the Rio Olympics 2016 have not been smooth either. Brazil is facing one of its worst times whether it is with regards to the economy or governance. Unlike the 2008 recession, during this economic downturn Brazil’s economy has been contracting and its fiscal deficit has also increased. Add to this, the hassle of corruption charges that the government is facing. The Olympics are jeopardised in terms of its grandeur.
Rio won the bid to host the Olympics in 2009. Following the announcement of FIFA world cup, this had been a huge boost to the already growing economy. One can imagine what a boost it must have been for a developing country’s population. The President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva had said,’ “We aren’t the United States, but we are getting there, and we will get there,” he said.
Fast forward to February, 2016 – barely six months before the games:
The economic set back will ensure a budget cut for Olympics anywhere by 5% to 20%.
News Reports say that athletes will share television sets and dignitaries will have to compromise on gourmet fares.
The capacity of grandstands for watching rowing and beach volley ball has been reduced sharply.
The number of volunteers has also been brought down to 50000 and cars for ferrying to 4000.
There are concerns about cleaning the waters, which were supposed to hold the rowing competition. It is filled with the sewage of the city. In the event of an unclean Guanabara Bay, the competition will have to be shifted to the Atlantic.
The extension of Rio’s metro to its Olympic Park may not be complete by August.
One can imagine that the above is but a short list in the distress of the organisers. For a country like Brazil which was booming but a few years ago, this has been one of its worst nightmares. And the concoction of woes has just lengthened with the Zika Virus. In a country, which is known for its passionate population, indigenous ways of living life – the motto of Live your passion is just apt. Hosting such enormous mega events in quick succession was supposed to add to Brazil’s fortunes. Things, however, may have taken a turn for the worse now and at the same time they have raised questions, which require immediate answers.
In a situation where the deficit has ballooned by almost 9%, can Brazil really afford the luxury of playing host? Of course, the events have brought in trade, tourism and traffic but they have also plagued the domestic population with problems and inconvenience. Is the glory of being South America’s first country to host Olympics greater than solving the corruption and economic problems that Brazil faces today? Looking at the other side of the coin, isn’t there an imminent danger of degradation of the quality of Olympics? We saw it in India six years ago we might be looking at a larger picture now. Why spend the much required money on the games, when it can be used for a better purpose?
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.