As the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics come to a close, a buzz of excitement is left surrounding the citizens of Brazil. It has left the population wondering if this prestigious event will put Brazil on the world stage or leave them with empty stadiums and substantial debt. It is no secret that countries rarely break even from the costs of hosting the Olympics and are often left with more stadiums then can be utilized.
What a country can gain is the boom of building projects and the publicity of hosting the most famous sporting event of the world. When done right, this can create jobs, useful infrastructure to a city and an influx of tourism.
When Brazil won the bid for this summer’s Olympics in 2009, its economy was in a good spot and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was ready to spin the Olympics into his vision for the future of Brazil. Brazil had just weathered the 2008 recession better than most countries, and President Silva hoped to use the Olympics to improve Rio de Janeiro’s infrastructure and remake his capital. However, as 2016 neared, Brazil faced an influx of violent crime and economic decline.
After almost doubling its estimated costs of hosting the Olympics, Brazil still failed to deal with its water pollution issues and deliver on its promises of various new public services and transportation. In 2012, Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paez laid out in his Ted talk a plan to modernize Rio’s slums, or favelas, by bringing in important public services and building projects. He hoped to use these games to close the gap between Rio’s rich and poor.
As the Olympics came around the plan to urbanize, the favelas was never implemented and families were evicted from their homes. Most of the federal money designated to improving Rio was funneled into its wealthiest suburb, Barra da Tijuca, home of only 4 percent of Rio’s population. A 10-mile rail line connecting the Barra to important hotels was built, which according to the New York Times went over $1 billion dollars over budget. This caused a halt to many much needed public transportation projects through the favelas.
After the Olympics, Brazil claimed to break even with the costs of hosting it. Brazil claims 40 percent of its revenue comes from local sponsors however, The Atlantic notes this leaves out government subsidies to the wealthy businesses providing these sponsorships.
In contrast to the troubles Brazil has had hosting the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee claims that, “History will talk about…a much better Rio De Janiero after the Olympics,” its president, Thomas Bach, said. They point to Rio’s first public golf course, The Metro Line 4 (the line connecting Barra da Tijuca to Zona Sul, and a “state of the art anti-doping laboratory.” However, it is hard to see how the majority of Brazil’s population will benefit from this.
The 2016 Summer Olympics provided a huge opportunity for Brazil to advance as a nation. The world will watch and see if Bach’s “much better Rio” will indeed come about or if these games were merely a ploy for powerful Brazilians to secure more wealth at the expense of the populous.