There was reason for disbelief – plenty of reason. Brazil, as well as the international media, listed dozens of problems with Rio and the Olympics organization prior to August 5. We at plus55 did so, too. There was the Zika outbreak, the filth of Guanabara Bay, the problems at the Olympic Village, the financial collapse of Rio de Janeiro – and even a possible ISIS threat. And all that in the last couple of weeks before the Olympic pyre was lit. But now that everything is said and done, we can say something surprising: the Rio games were imperfect, but marvelous.
Brazil showed the world that a developing nation can – with hiccups and bumps on the road – host an event of such grandeur. If it should, considering how much the event costs and the International Olympic Committee’s lack in transparency, is another issue.
There were serious problems during the Games, most of which were lost in the sea of euphoria. A member of the security forces was killed by drug dealers, residents of favelas were victims of police brutality, athletes were mugged inside the Olympic Village – and a diplomatic incident was caused by an obnoxious American swimmer. But as Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, has said: “The Games weren’t organized within a bubble, but in a city with social problems, where real life continues during the Olympics.”
Now that the Games are over, we are left with nothing but real life. And we must not forget the many problems that lie ahead of Brazil. Rio, for starters, remains in a state of financial collapse. The city depended on bailouts from the federal government to host both the Olympics and the upcoming Paralympics. The latest bailout amounts to a staggering $75 million. And money, once the thousands of tourists and journalists are gone, won’t keep flowing.
José Maria Beltrame, Secretary for Public Safety, has revealed his main concern for a post-Olympics Rio. “How do we keep things working when officers are not getting paid? We are experiencing one of the most difficult moments in Rio,” he said. But the law enforcement agents are not the only ones who are not getting their money. A company that provides oxygen to eight municipal hospitals has announced that it could suspend its supply due to lack of payment.
And what do we make of the Olympic venues? We saw back in 2007, when Rio hosted the Pan-American Games, what happens to these buildings: they become uber-expensive problems that nobody wants to take responsibility for. Will there be any money to use them for programs to incentive sports? History suggests otherwise.
The biggest challenge facing Rio wasn’t hosting the Olympics – but how to survive after the Games.