To conclude the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil displayed slow-motion replays of iconic finishes and the emergence of new household-name athletes—all with the United States at the top of the medal table. While the Olympics were entertaining and successful as a whole, the instability of Brazil’s social, economic and political infrastructure cast a shadow over the games—not only during the 16-day event, but months before it began. According to The Huffington Post, an estimated 22,000 Brazilian families were evicted from their homes to construct Olympic facilities, with more than 6,000 families having lost their homes. To prepare for tourists, police brutality escalated within recent years to unsettling levels—one in five homicides in Rio de Janeiro were caused by police in 2015. Additionally, Guanabara Bay—the setting for some swimming and sailing events—was polluted up to “1.7 million times what would be considered highly alarming in the U.S. or Europe.”
Although these problems were not enough to impede the games overall, there were many setbacks and uncomfortable conflicts for visiting athletes. According to The New York Times, some buildings in the athletes’ village were completely uninhabitable because of exposed wiring and leaking pipes. In addition, during diving and synchronized swimming competitions, multiple swimming pools turned a nauseating green color that worried athletes and went viral on social media.
It is unfortunate that Brazil was unable to solve its internal problems before attempting a project as big as the Olympic Games, but it isn’t surprising that the results were unsatisfactory. The country hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup amid similar issues with violence, homelessness and debt to the disadvantage of its impoverished population. These issues stayed under the media’s radar until it resurfaced with Olympic coverage—but are still inactively addressed.
Potential Olympic host cities are evaluated on 18 different eligibility criteria and voted on by the International Olympic Committee. Rio de Janeiro was evaluated on its security, transportation, construction plans and more—so it is any wonder why it was deemed fit for hosting with its myriad of internal issues and social strife.
Now that the Olympic Games are over, time will tell if Brazil can transform its societal infrastructure on its own or if it will receive the help it needs to recover.