When Rio first won the right to host the Olympics in 2009, Brazil was on the rise; a promising economic climate characterized by a swiftly expanding export sector and swelling middle class was reason enough to be optimistic.
Now – a few months out from this summer’s Games – the South American nation is facing its fair share of problems. This is common knowledge. Things are not going well.
Trying to make sense of it all? Here’s our list of eight things to know as Brazil “lurches from one crisis to the next”:
President Dilma Rousseff is not making any friends.
Rousseff is under fire, there’s no denying it. Just this weekend, more than half a million demonstrators hit the streets of São Paulo to protest against her government and demand her resignation. Impeachment proceedings are already in the works in relation to her handling of the economy, as is a motion to annul 2014 election results over illegal campaign contributions. Not only this, her predecessor and mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (in office 2003–2011) is the subject of multiple corruption investigations linking him to a scandal with state oil company Petrobras.
The economy is struggling.
The economy is shit. It contracted by 3.8 percent in 2015, marking possibly the worst recession in country history.
The reason? Commodities like sugar, soybeans and iron ore are less sought after by China, oil prices are low, and – according to critics – Rousseff has spent an inordinate amount on lavish social programs even in the decline.
Corruption is rampant.
One need not look past Operação Lava-Jato (or Car Wash) – a case opened by a small group of federal prosecutors in the southern Brazilian state of Parana last year – for this to become glaringly clear. Petrobras is once again in the driver’s seat; kickback schemes have been uncovered linking them to construction companies that overcharged in exchange for funneling money into political bribes and campaign slush funds. A corporate crisis to throw the entire country for a loop.
Zika has hit Brazil hard.
The mosquito-borne virus tied to microcephaly has been causing added stress for athletes scheduled to take center stage this summer.
And polluted bodies of water are not making it better.
Two principal polluted bodies of water – Guanabara Bay and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon – are showing no signs of improvement. Standing water mosquito-breeding havens.
Questions over mobility plans have arisen.
‘All signs point to a proposed 10-mile subway extension from the Rio city center to Olympic Park not being ready come showtime. It’s supposed to carry some 300,000 fans each day. Worrisome …
Olympic budget cuts = lavish games turned austerity model.
A 5 to 20 percent budget reduction will be accompanied by a plethora of other noticeable cutbacks. We wrote about them here.
The Olympics has displaced thousands.
The Olympic legacy of forced evictions and gentrification has already hit Brazil hard; over 22,000 families have been displaced by the Games so far. Check this video for the story of Pedro Berto, a resident of Vila Autódroma who has literally seen his home and neighborhood destroyed and demolished in the process of constructing Olympic Park (warning: be ready to shed a tear or two).