By: David McDonald
With the Rio de Janeiro 2016 summer olympics beginning today, I thought it would be appropriate to explore the social, economic, and environmental impacts that hosting such an event can have on an underdeveloped area.
Personally, I think the olympics are a great way for countries to unite through sport, and compete in a friendly, yet challenging atmosphere. Some of the most heroic, unifying events have taken place at the olympics, and I don’t think the Rio de Janeiro games will be any different.
Although there will be moments of triumph, and the games will unify many nations through compelling sport, there lies a much deeper understanding to the economics of the Olympics, as well as the social implications it can have on underdeveloped nations. The people of Rio (mostly the poor) have been severely mistreated in recent years since the FIFA world cup in 2014, and many have had their rights stripped away for the sake of the Olympic games. So I wanted to find out exactly why this is all happening, as well as how the 2016 games have gotten off to such a shaky start, even though they haven’t started yet.
Initial problems with the Rio summer games
It is no surprise that there has been a considerable amount of controversy surrounding the 2016 summer games. To list a few, there has been:
The Zika Virus is an infection that spreads through mosquito bites. The virus was first discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda. Beginning in 1952, human cases of Zika were detected and since then, outbreaks of the virus have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Just recently however, the first cases of Zika were found in South America, with Brazil being a focal point for human infections. The infection causes fevers, rashes, joint pain, and headaches.
What has olympic athletes most concerned about Zika is the potential birth defects it can cause. The most notably birth defect caused by Zika is Microcephaly, which causes an abnormal smallness of the head with newborn children. The most concerning aspect of this whole ordeal is that only 20% of Zika carriers only show symptoms of the virus. Meaning pregnant women need to be extremely careful in Brazil not to get bit, and men need to ensure that they don’t have any mosquito bites before impregnating a woman where the Zika virus flourishes.
Athletes are fully aware of the Zika outbreak in Rio de Janeiro, which is causing some to withhold from attending, or go one step further, to freeze their sperm. John Speraw, an American volleyball coach, opted to freeze his sperm before heading down to Rio; A overly precocious move by the American, but one that will ensure his future child won’t be affected by the virus.
Olympians that are attending the Rio olympics are highly concerned about the fact that there is raw sewage flowing into many of Rio’s olympic venues, every day.
Some athletes felt ill after competing in test events held in Rio’s polluted water. Canada’s chief medical officer, Bob McCormack said that he, “wouldn’t drink the water out of the lagoon.” And that, “No one should drink that water.”
Unfortunately, it only gets worse from there.
Just 36 days before the beginning of the Rio Olympics, a beach goer discovered human body parts that had washed up on the shore, right in front of the Olympic Beach Volleyball Arena on Rio’s famous Copacabana beach. This, along with the fact that Rio is still pumping sewage into the water where athletes will be competing is absolutely ludicrous.
I mean, you can’t control a body washing up on the shore, but you should ensure that your water is clean enough for people to swim in before you consider hosting the Olympic Games.
Brazilian organizers pledged to clean up the city’s water with improved sewage sanitation, but they have recently acknowledged the water will not be as clean as originally planned.
The Olympics are just one day away, and it’s already shaping up to be one of the “shittiest games ever” as some are calling it.
Problems with building the games’ venues
Rio Mayor, Eduardo Paes insisted last year that “all Olympic venues would be delivered on time for the games,” a feat he referred to as, “a miracle.”
But with Brazil being one of the world’s largest countries, as well as having one of the largest economies, one would wonder why the country is struggling with preparing the games’ venues.
Well, it has to do with the fact that Brazil chose the blossoming city of Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 summer games. To outsiders, the city is quite beautiful. However, the only thing it is blossoming with at the moment is civil unrest, political corruption, police brutality, pollution, and worker strikes.
The problem lies with the fact that the city of Rio is simply not prepared to host such an event, after just recently hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and even that cost the country $15 billion dollars and returned less than 7% in revenue. From an economic standpoint, they don’t have the resources to host an olympic venue that on average, take a very long time to bring in revenue to hosting countries.
One of the worst hits the city has taken was with their Favelas, where more than 77,000 residents in Rio have been evicted since 2009 due to rapid infrastructural changes in the city.
Residents living in the favelas Vila Autodromo have been evicted for the Olympics
The reason why Rio was so far behind schedule with the construction of their venues was because of a lack of money and resources, and the fact that they had to evict thousands of families in order to construct the games’ venues.
It has been a large topic of discussion how Rio civilians are being mistreated and their rights being taken away for the sake of the Olympic games, and it simply is not fair.
Olympic planners decide how they will run a freeway through impoverished neighbourhoods
Rio de Janeiro’s poor citizens are suffering, and their human rights are being violated
The sentiment that Rio’s citizens’ health and livelihoods are secondary to a successful games is being shared among the cities’ inhabitants.
In Vila Autódromo, a city situated on the outskirts of the Olympic Park, rubber bullets and batons were used to force nearly 600 families—many of whom had been living in the area for generations—to evacuate and make way for the Olympics.
Along with the more than 4,000 families that have lost their homes in Rio due to the game’s, worker rights violations and poor labour conditions top the long list of problems linked directly to the games.
“The Olympics have long provided local developers and politicians with an alibity to steamroll already marginalized communities … The IOC absolutely needs to start taking human rights more seriously.” – Jules Boykoff
Considering the fact that this has happened before with previous olympics being hosted in underdeveloped nations, something needs to be done to protect human rights and worker rights in future Olympic projects.
It’s generally upsetting that we as a people prioritize entertainment over the well-being of our fellow man. Main-stream media sources will not show you the dark side of the olympics because it is not profitable. They will focus your attention on the games, and try their best to keep it there.
The main highway which links Rio’s international airport to the city center and tourist areas runs right above the Mare favela community complex in Rio de Janeiro. Critics say new posters advertising the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have been placed over the plastic sound panels along the highway in order to block the view of the favela from arriving tourists.
‘Sound barriers’ with posters advertising the Olympics are attached along a stretch of the main highway which links Rio’s international airport to the city center and tourist areas.
The city is now designed for tourism – it no longer aids the poor civilian, but rather the rich investor. It is designed in such a way that tourists cannot see the harsh reality of the place that they are in. With panels put up to cover the favela’s that stretch along the main highways, it really goes to show how much the Olympic games are structured about pure profit, and not bringing nations together.
My take on the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics
The olympics have been defined as a way to, “promote peace and unity within the international community through the medium of sports.”
While there is no questioning the fact that the games do accomplish a sense of unity with the world’s countries through the use of sport – at what cost does this unity come at?
As witnessed with the Rio de Janeiro games, the unification of Earth’s many countries, means that the poor must suffer, so that the talented can compete, and the rich can get richer.
Inequality – from a wealth, human-rights, and health standpoint – seems to be a common theme in modern society, and if there is anything that amplifies the inequality of people around the globe, it is the Olympics.
Personally, I think the Olympic games are great, but it is not without its faults. Perhaps if it didn’t violate so many areas of life that I believe are sacred (human rights, human and environmental safety) then I would be totally fine with it.
But I’m not okay with it.
I’m not okay with how being are being treated, and how people have been mistreated in past Olympics.
Where does all of this stem from? – The fact that the Olympic committee let’s developing nations host games of this magnitude would be a pretty good guess.
If your country is already economically, and socially unstable, you should not be permitted to host the Olympic games, FIFA World Cup, or any major sporting event for that matter. If your country has lingering issues, an event such as the olympics will only amplify them.
I’m going to leave it at that. If you agree with my viewpoint on the 2016 Rio Olympics, please give this article a share. Together, we can promote the protection of human and environmental rights through exploiting events such as the Olympics.
Have a great day everyone, and good luck to everyone competing in the 2016 Olympic games, as well as the citizens of Rio de Janeiro.