I promise that this will be the very last blog that I write telling you that “I told you so” about the stupidity of holding the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It’s been almost seven years since Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and I’ve been telling anyone who would listen, that it was a big mistake.
All I could think of when I saw Barack Obama was flying to Denmark to pursue his home town of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games. All I could say was great, anywhere but the UK. Then I saw that the winner of the Olympic lottery was Rio de Janeiro and very unlike me, I was lost for words. I was struck dumb, where have the Olympic Committee been for the past 30 years? To be honest my first thoughts were to suspect the honesty and integrity of the whole panel. No-one with any nuance at all could not know that Rio de Janeiro is known the world over as the City of Violence, the City of Corruption.
The opening ceremony is this week. So far we have had one competitor apparently mugged by an armed Police Officer in uniform who took him to a cash point to empty his bank account. We have had Bernie Ecclestone’s Mother-in-Law kidnapped and held to ransom for £30 Million. Fortunately the kidnappers have been arrested and she was released after 13 days, unharmed and without the ransom being paid.
Policemen, whose salaries were delayed by a bankrupt state government, have been greeting arrivals at the International Airport with a sign, written in English, “Welcome to Hell”. Well they have been warned. The promised and much vaunted Metro Line extension and the Bus Corridor which were promised to be the games legacy for the residents are nearly 2 years behind schedule. Bus links are also late. Days ahead of the opening ceremony, traffic has caused chaos with 20 kilometres of tailbacks in traffic jams. A friend tells me that her normal 1 hour commute took her 4 hours.
The new Metro extension which finally opened last Monday is only available to Olympic ticket or pass holders. Commuters with not be allowed to use the extension until the end of the year. By the way the Metro extension stops more than 10 kilometres short of the Games Venues, so for the remainder of the journey visitors will have to use buses or taxis to add to the traffic jams.
Rio’s high crime rate is already up on its already high world ratings. There are many reports of drivers caught in traffic jams being physically dragged from their cars and robbed. On top of Rio’s local difficulties they are compounded by a national crisis. Brazil is suffering from a really severe recession, it’s President Dilma Rouseff, is being impeached on charges of manipulating government accounts; an interim government is in charge. Rio is one of the centres of this national dysfunction. Petrobras, the state-controlled oil firm is at the centre of a multibillion dollar scandal is based in Rio. The city’s policemen are no exception to Rio’s violent norm; they killed 40 people in May this year alone. Last year 133 people died violently just in Santa Cruz, a deceptively tranquil district at Rio’s western tip. Meanwhile in the Favelas, the shanty towns that cling to the hillsides and which house over 20% of the population, the shoot outs between gangsters and trigger happy police have become even more frequent and the death toll continues to rise
The federal government has sent 27,000 soldiers and national guards to fight crime and prevent terrorism. There are a number of Jihadist threats and some home grown ones have had their plots foiled. In spite of Rio’s reputation as a party city famous for its fiestas and carnivals and the forthcoming Olympic opening ceremony taking to the streets, the mood in Rio is very downbeat and even a successful games is not going to be enough to lift that depression. It has spectacular scenery but that is not going to be enough to compete with outbreaks of mosquito borne diseases, sewage infested bodies of waters with levels of viruses so high that athletes competing in them are in life threatening danger.
Apart from health concerns for the athletes, and horrendous crime threats, there is also civil unrest among Brazilians themselves over misappropriated funds for the games and a worry that this may be remembered as among the worst in Summer Games history. I will reserve my judgement until a later date but I still have to say “I told you so”
There I’ve said it and I promise that I will not say it again. If you are interested in my warnings over the past seven years my blog at www.jakethewriter.com/?p=1151 will take you there and has links to all of my previous Rio rants. In spite of that I hope the games are more successful than I predict. Especially for the British teams, for the sailors I wish you fair winds and following seas with no life threatening detritus.