Politics overshadows Rio preparations
Brazil’s economic and political crisis has relegated Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic preparations to an afterthought with South America’s first games just over four months away.
Rio’s Olympics are being sidelined by an even bigger show: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s fight against impeachment with millions on the streets marching against her. All of this amid multiple corruption scandals with the country mired in the worst economic recession since the 1930s.
“If this was five years ago, we could have even lost the games,” organising committee spokesman Mario Andrada told The Associated Press. “I have never experienced such political turmoil in my life. If you ask me what’s next, I don’t have a clue.”
Brazil’s leaders were hoping attention from the Olympics - and the 2014 World Cup - would burnish the country’s image. Instead, they may have done the opposite with the ominous impeachment getting intense coverage, highlighting graft trials, endemic corruption and a sharp fall in the value of country’s currency.
Earlier this month an estimated 3 million people took to the streets across Brazil in antiRousseff demonstrations. Add to that, long delays in preparing for the Games and the signs are worrying.
The city of Rio has rescinded contracts on at least two Olympic venues - the tennis and equestrian centres - and delays have been reported on at least four other projects. The city says about 95 per cent of the building work is done and venues will be delivered in time.
It was different in 2009 when Rio was awarded the games, championed by then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He called it a “sacred day”.
The promises now seem hollow, and so does the legendary da Silva.
A few weeks ago he was hauled in for police questioning in a graft and money-laundering investigation. Last week Rousseff named him her chief of staff, which would grant him some legal immunity - an appointment subsequently blocked by a court ruling.
It’s possible that Rousseff will be out as president when the Games open on August 5, which may leave the ceremonial opening of the Games to vice president Michel Temer.
MOVEMENT: Anti-Rouseff protesters call for the Brazilian