Brazilian and Olympic challenges continue

2016_Summer_Olympics_logo.svgIt is only a few weeks before the official start of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yet the number of contentious issues that pose serious threats to the success of the event continues to emerge unabated.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is among those countries whose National Olympic Committees (NOC) are participating in the Games. We must all therefore ponder the rapidly changing circumstances emerging in the South American country with each passing day.
Corruption galore
It is a well-established fact that Brazil, once the brightest economic prospect in South America has been experiencing severe challenges to the point where no aspect of the national economy is exempt.
The economic malaise into which the Brazilian economy has sunk is a result, not only of the changing face of the global environment but more importantly, the chronic corruption that seems endemic in the governmental system and society, more generally.
Where Lula Da Silva was once elevated as a veritable national hero of the Brazilian working class, given his trade union background, he is now considered in an increasing number of areas, as much a villain as many of the ministers and government officials now charged officially with corruption.
Interestingly, the vast majority of the corruption appears to have emerged from Petrobras, the major industrial giant in Brazil.
Brazil’s duly elected president, Dilma Rousseff, is on 180 days compulsory suspension awaiting the outcome of an impeachment process. For her part the president insists that she had nothing to do with any of the corruption of which so many others have been accused. She is however charged with turning a blind eye to the corruption that took place all around.
Rousseff’s decision to appoint her predecessor, Lula Da Silva, Chief of Staff, has been viewed by many Brazilians as a ruse merely aimed at protecting him from formal corruption charges being laid against him.
The corruption is so deep-seated in Brazil that already three of the ministers of the government of the Interim President, Michael Temer, have been forced to resign their portfolios. The president himself is also being closely monitored as corruption accusations are being levelled against him.
The rate at which charges are being laid against ministers and other government officials is such that one wonders whether there would be a government in place at the time of the Olympics or whether during the Games we can expect more arrests of high-ranking officials. All of this makes for a very tense situation in Brazil.
We are also hearing of a resurgence in crime as the Games approaches. The weakening of the government may well be seen by criminal elements in the society as an opportunity to bolster their trade, preying on citizens and visitors alike.
Not surprising there are investigations into the award of contracts for some of the venues for the Games of 2016. It would be a major scandal should there be evidence emerging of corruption in this aspect of the Games especially since the Olympic Agenda2020 is an attempt to effect major changes in the Olympic Movement with special emphasis on transparency and accountability.
Rio Calamity
The negative impact of Brazil’s crass corruption and the significant economic decline into which the country has sunk forced the governor of Rio, Francisco Dornelles, to officially declare the state of Rio de Janeiro a ‘public calamity’ on 17 June 2016.
The decision by the governor appears aimed at getting the official approval to undertake stringent measures to divert funds from other state projects to the requirements for the completion of preparations for the successful hosting of the Olympic Games. He is hoping that this measure would trigger the release of emergency funding, given that the interim president has given a commitment to the realisation of the Games.
Dornelles’ decision reflects just how cash-strapped the country is at this stage, literally on the eve of the Summer Olympics that the country so readily won several years ago.
Many wonder how such a once-thriving economy could so easily be transformed into a colossal nightmare for the general populace.
It is understood that the city of Rio has the responsibility for the majority of the funding required to host the Games. However, the state of Rio is responsible for transportation and much of the security.
But Dornelles remains very concerned with less than 40 days left before the officials tart of the Games. In an interview with Globo of Brazil, referenced in Inside the Games, he stated, “I am optimistic about the Games, but we have to show the reality…We can make a great Olympics, but if some steps are not taken, it can be a big failure. 
“I have said that without security and no subway, there will be difficulties. How will people get to places without underground transport? How will people feel protected in the city without security? We have to give proof that we are equipping security and the mobility for people to come to the country.”
Inside the Games notes …”This marks the most serious admission of fears ahead of the Games by a Brazilian official after repeated insistences that the Games would be unaffected by the various political and economic problems ravaging the host nation”.
Of the foregoing comments by the governor of Rio the security concerns are of grave importance. In these troubled times security is the one area of the Olympic Games that cannot be compromised in any way.
Zika and exiting athletes
The international media have made much about the presence of the zika virus in Brazil. This has led to open debate on the nature of the threat posed by the virus.
While some professionals have come out advocating the postponement of the Olympic Games because of the zika virus in Brazil, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stopped short of supporting such a recommendation.
In the final analysis many have grown very confused as to which side of the argument they should accept.
The international media have doled out an almost daily diet of the negative consequences for pregnant women and the children in the womb at the time of experiencing a zika attack. This has heightened concern amongst many athletes about the future of their families.
Interestingly however, while National Olympic Committees have generally lent their support to participating in the Games in Rio, they are themselves leaving it up to the athletes and officials to determine whether or not the attend the Games, once selected to their respective national representative teams.
Athletes involved in the sport of golf have been leading the exit from participation in the Games.
What makes the decision of some of the top golfers in the world to withdraw from the Olympics is the fact that the sport has only recently been reintroduced to the Games’ programme.
Olympic officials must be very embarrassed that after taking what they saw as a monumental decision to reintroduce golf to the Games so many of the sport’s top players have withdrawn from the competition. This would mean a significant loss of viewership of the event.
Perhaps of greatest significance is the fact that golf is already on the Games programme for 2020in Tokyo, Japan but may find itself on the list for removal from the Games Programme of 2024 if their involvement in 2016 and 2020 prove to be less attractive than anticipated.
Rio must at this stage be hoping that athletes in other sports do not follow the stance adopted by some of the world’s leading golfers. This could lead to a very dangerous and perhaps untenable situation for the Olympic Game sand indeed the Olympic Movement.
The withdrawal of elite athletes from the Olympic Games at this very late stage could serve no useful purpose as far as the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Games organisers are concerned. It would also do nothing to enhance the image of the IOC, custodians of the Games.