When the Rio 2016 Olympics commence on August 5, billions of people across the globe will be watching the spectacle — out of a love of sport or patriotic duty.
Concerns about the health and safety of the Olympians, however, have been at the forefront of public scrutiny. Primarily, fears of the Zika virus have forced a large number of athletes to boycott the games.
Another controversy arose when Australian athletes initially refused to stay at the Olympic Village over “uninhabitable” living conditions and the facility’s uncompleted construction. Days later, the same group was robbed of their laptops, clothing, and other personal effects after a small fire forced an immediate evacuation of their living quarters.
And another instance occurred when human fecal matter and other dangerous contaminants were found in Guanabara Bay — the place where the sailing and 10km marathon swimming events will be held. Olympic officials had hoped it would be cleaned up before the games.
The eventful lead-up to Rio has constituted a disastrous period in recent Olympic history. The controversies that surface daily add further insult to an already-tarnished world event. As Rio’s opening ceremony approaches, the myriad of horror stories coming to light has raised the question of whether the International Olympic Committee (IOC) acted prudently in allowing Brazil to retain hosting duties.
Brazil’s political climate is of great international concern. President Dilma Rousseff has been suspended from her office and will not attend the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, as she is currently facing an impeachment trial. Days before the games begin, her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is also on trial for obstruction of justice. Simply, the nation’s political turmoil has not developed the proper infrastructure that is required to uphold the responsibilities of hosting the games.
[pullquote-default]In the case of Brazil, a nation beset by political instability and financial crisis should not have been allowed to host the world’s most important sporting event.[/pullquote-default]
Economically, Brazil is sputtering. The country is rife with poverty, as it possesses an 11 per cent unemployment rate and a public debt totalling 69 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The Financial Times estimates that the Olympics will cost Brazil $4.1 billion. Considering Brazil’s unsettled political and economic landscape, many are questioning whether the IOC acted responsibly in granting the games to Brazil.
As our Canadian athletes strive for the podium, the determining factor of the Olympics’ success or failure should not be based solely on athletic outcomes. Perhaps the metric of success should not even include sport; instead, it should be determined by the event’s long-term political and financial impact on Brazil — ultimately, by the overall effect of hosting the games on the livelihood of the host nation’s citizens.
The quadrennial event has become notorious for burying financially-unstable countries under a mountain of debt. Greece should have been a cautionary tale for those who believed that Rio could host the Olympics without a hitch. It should also serve as a reminder when selecting host nations in the future.
The economic impact of the 2004 Athens Olympics paints a clear picture of how hosting the games can contribute to a country’s economic decline. In 2012, Bloomberg reported that Greek taxpayers were on the hook for over $10 billion due to the cost of the games — this was in addition to Greece’s GDP deficit of $6.1 billion. Eight years after the Olympics, Greece’s debt had ballooned to 165.3 per cent of its GDP.
In the case of Brazil, a nation beset by political instability and financial crisis should not have been allowed to host the world’s most important sporting event. It seems as though the IOC believes the business of sport is more important than the well-being of a host nation’s impoverished civilians, who are struggling to merely survive.
[pullquote-features]The IOC should form an inquest to investigate whether Brazil’s political and financial environment was able to handle the responsibilities of an Olympic Games host nation.[/pullquote-features]
Because the Olympic events are already scheduled to take place, outlining the concerns over the games will not bring about the immediate changes necessary to address the issues. Following the games, however, the IOC should form an inquest to investigate whether Brazil’s political and financial environment was able to handle the responsibilities of an Olympic Games host nation.
Then, the host nation selection process needs to be improved — more emphasis must be placed on the financial and political stability of a potential host nation and the well-being of its citizens. The Olympics should only be held in stable nations that can afford the enormous costs of hosting the games. With an average price tag in the billions, holding the games is a luxury, not a right. Citizens, such as those in Rio and Athens, should not be subjected to financial crises for simply living in a nation hosting the event.
When the Olympics are open for bidding again, the aftermath of the Rio games is unlikely to be remembered, but many in Brazil will still be reeling from the burden of hosting the games.