Monday, 23 May 2016

Rio 2016 Olympic Torch in Brazil

UPDATE August 2016 - Alison (pictured) won gold at the Olympics in Rio...
The Rio 2016 Olympics are almost here! Brazil. The 2016 Games. Surely it will be the greatest Olympic Games ever to have happened. Following the runaway success of the World Cup... right!? Perhaps, but let's slow down.

In 2012, I was living in London. Olympic fever had struck, and the torch was about to come by my offices at Bank. I thought bad to go out for a skive, but then everyone in the entire office did. It was a huge event, and the streets were lined with thousands of tie-clad office workers wanting a glimpse of the thing. It was about to be broadcast to hundreds of millions of people around the world, after all.

Skip forward to 2016, Brazil. I went out to see the Olympic torch here too. How could I miss it? I am a foreigner so can put aside everything else and focus on the sporting spectacle. However, truth be told, there is far less enthusiasm in Brazil for the Olympics than there was in London.

The reasons for this lack of enthusiasm are many, but mostly, the country's politicians have let the people down in a bad way. Public trust is gone because, as has now been proven, so much public money has been stolen through bribe schemes for over-charged infrastructure projects. It's almost guaranteed the Olympic construction works are no different.

The betrayal of Brazil's politicians has went far beyond that, though. The government has been totally frozen, dozens of individuals involved should definitely be in jail, while President Dilma - largely with her hands tied by a house of corrupt Deputies - has been impeached for made-up crimes. Many call it a coup.

Perhaps worse than that, if we look at Rio specifically, many of the promises the city's administrators made to the Olympic Committee to secure the games are not going to be met. Many of these promises would have bettered the life of people in Rio. For example, Guanabara Bay was to be cleaned up through the construction of sewerage plants, cleaning up the heavily polluted waterways of the whole Rio area. Not done - and the Rio government threw the towel in on this project as long as a year ago.

In London 2012, the talk was about being ready on time for the Olympics. Would it, wouldn't it be? It was and, to be honest, I think Rio will be too. That's not in question. The betrayal of Brazil's government against it's people across far too many fronts to possibly go into detail in this blog post are the reason why, as many Brazilians tell me, this is simply not the climate for Brazil to host an Olympics. I probe further. Brazil will have to be fake to the world. If it appears fine and well, people around the world should know things are definitely not fine. The recession has crippled the economy, the population is totally divided about political ideas and, it has to put on a smile.

This was supposed to be Brazil's arrival on the big world stage. The stand-in President, Michel Temer, who the world will see in the stands probably hosting world leaders in this function, many Brazilians see as illegitimate. Frankly, many will see his presence on that world stage as an affront to their democracy.

The Olympics, therefore, will be something for the gringos to enjoy - which many will, perhaps ignorant of the problems faced by the host country. It doesn't seem fair, really.

There was one thing about seeing the Olympic torch up close in the flesh that gave me hope. Lining the streets, greeting the torch runner with chants, shouting and excited laughing were hundreds of children. These school kids are innocent and, perhaps even oblivious to the problems faced in Brazil. That is absolutely a good thing. They can see the Olympics for what it is: an exciting sports event happening in their home country. Their local Brazilian athletes will be performing for them and, who knows, perhaps they can become sporting heroes one day too?

This is what the Olympics should be about. The future generations will remember this forever and aspire to emulate their Brazilian Olympians. As I say in my video above, weeks before the event itself, those who can put aside the problems Brazil faces will start to focus on the greatest sporting event in the world for exactly that and will remember it for that alone.

Something that shouldn't be in any doubt: Brazilians will always greet foreign guests to the country with a smile, a warm hug and a huge party, regardless of what is happening in their own personal lives. If you're coming to the games from abroad, be assured - you will have the time of your life at the event. Rio de Janeiro is one of my favourite cities in the world and you - I absolutely promise - will love it. Come with an open mind and heart and let Brazil infect you.

Wow, that was a heavy one. In case you are wondering, the athlete carrying the torch in my video and pictures is called Alison. He's a local favourite here in Espirito Santo state - a beach volleyball player with a real chance at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Good luck to him and the rest of Team Brazil when things get down to it in August 2016.


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