We are getting closer and closer to the Summer Olympics and, as they approach, more critical eyes are turned to Rio and the city’s state of preparation. The New York Times, in particular, has done a good job of synthesizing the various concerns and critiques associated with Brazil hosting the games: corruption and a functional coup have absorbed the electorate’s attention, costs are overrunning and major projects may only barely be finished on time, pollution at venues may lead to health issues with athletes, and the general economic and security conditions of the city are poor at best.
There is almost no doubt that Rio would not win the bid were they bidding for the games, today, given the state of things. But I also think that it’s important to remember that almost all countries and host-cities face incredible criticism in the run-up to any games. This was true of Beijing, of Vancouver, and of the various venues which have recently held the World Cup.
What will perhaps be most telling is the impact of the games after everyone has left. Will it be the case that the spending on infrastructure for the games prevents Rio from investing in desperately needed additional kinds of services for those worst off? Or will it be that many of the legacy improvements — such a the alert system that was set up to warn those in favelas of forthcoming major storms that could lead to mudslides — that are less talked about will genuinely improve the status of the most impoverished? And what, if anything, will be the lasting effects of Pacification that has taken place in recent years after the major events are over and the economy continues to contract?