It will in all likelihood be the sporting highlight of the summer. In August, over 10,000 athletes from over 200 nations will descend on Rio de Janeiro, to compete in 306 events, in 28 sports. Kosovo and South Sudan will be competing at their first Olympics, the first to be held in South America. Rugby Sevens and Golf will be included after being added by the International Olympic Committee in 2009.
However these Olympics will face many challenges before they even start, and especially during the event itself. The Rio Olympics have already come under great scrutiny because of the great crime problems that have plagued the city. Evictions have already taken place, with violent altercations, in the city’s favelas, and drug wars are still rife among the many gangs. It is difficult to remove these threats as they stem from the huge poverty and unemployment that the country and the city are greatly suffering from.
There have worryingly been increases in crime against tourists, with swarms of robbers attacking beachgoers, but the police have responded with 700 officers along beaches and at roadblocks, so at least we can be sure that the state will react. The threat of terrorism will of course, be great. But the preparation seems to be matching the threat. 85,000 security staff will be deployed, more than double the number of London 2012. In the wake of the recent Paris and Brussels attacks, this is more vital than ever before.
Security experts are warning that Brazil is underprepared, suffering from false confidence because of the lack of previous attacks in the country. However, there have been liaisons with the US government, to learn about security at events such as the Superbowl, and crisis management at attacks such as the Boston Marathon bombing. The two countries have been working together with airport screening and controlling traffic into and out of stadiums, so at least Brazil will be prepared, if not expecting.
What’s worse, Brazil is suffering from the outbreak of the Zika virus, a cause of birth defects and neurological problems. It was declared a Public Health Emergency of International concern in February, and is serious enough that women in high risk areas are being advised not to get pregnant until more is known about the dangers. The Brazilian authorities have announced their plans to prevent the spread of the virus during the Olympics: facilities will be inspected four months before the Games begin to remove mosquito breeding grounds, with daily sweeps during the Games.
What’s more, Brazil is in the midst of a political crisis, with the President, Dilma Rousseff going to be impeached for supposedly manipulating government accounts to make her government’s economic performance appear better than her election campaign two years ago. There is no easy solution either: if the President and the deputy were both suspended from office, next in line would be the speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is currently on trial for corruption. But this is only scratching the surface; around one quarter of members of Congress face some sort of criminal proceedings, mostly relating to the misappropriation of billions of dollars from the state oil company, Petrobras.
The political crisis was caused not only by rampant problems in Brazilian politics but in part, by the economic crisis that has hit. The country was hit excessively by the recession due to its reliance on exporting primary commodities; sugar, meat, coffee, tobacco, which have experienced a great downturn in demand in recent years. Brazil’s economy contracted by about 4 per cent last year, while national debt is predicted to reach 80 per cent of GDP within three years: economists are predicting the largest recession for more than a century.
Despite the dire problems Brazil is facing, the International Olympic Committee have stated that they do not believe the Olympics will be affected. There is every chance that these Olympics could be a great success, and bring some much needed prosperity to a country in a dire need of a happy story