Will Carless – Global Post, 08/18/2016
You’ve probably heard by now about the robbery scandal in Rio de Janeiro involving the United States’ 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and his swimming friends — and how Brazilian officials accuse them of lying.
The details are really fuzzy, but here’s a 25-second synopsis of what’s believed to have happened (if you already know the basics, skip down below the video):
Lochte and three other Team USA swimmers went out drinking in Rio on Saturday night. They left a party in the early hours of Sunday morning, and got back to the athletes’ village just before 7 a.m. Later that day, Lochte claimed that their taxi had been held up by men calling themselves police. The robbers took Lochte’s money but left his cellphone, he told NBC News. Rio police started investigating.
Rodrigo Viga & Jeb Blount – Reuters, 08/18/2016
Brazil TV aired a video on Thursday that showed four U.S. Olympic swimmers did not tell the whole truth when they said they were robbed at gunpoint in an incident that has marred the image of South America’s first Olympic Games.
The security-camera images broadcast on Globo TV appeared to show the swimmers, including Olympic gold medallists Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen, in a dispute with staff at a Rio gas station, a fact they did not mention to police in their accounts.
“The athletes lied to us about their story,” a top Rio police official told Reuters on Thursday, declining to be identified because the matter was still under investigation.
Roger Cohen – The New York Times, 08/15/2016
When I was a correspondent in Brazil 30 years ago inflation was rampant. It ran at an average of 707.4 percent a year from 1985 to 1989. The salaries of the poor were wiped out within hours of being paid. The country went through three currencies — cruzeiro, cruzado and cruzado novo — while I lived in Rio. The only way out for Brazilians, people joked, was Galeão, the international airport.
Antônio Carlos (“Tom”) Jobim, the composer of “The Girl from Ipanema” (whose name is now affixed to that airport), famously observed that, “Brazil is not for beginners.” It was not then and it’s not now. It’s a vast diverse country, a tropical United States, whose rich and poor are divided by a chasm. High crime rates are in part a reflection of this divide. Flexibility is at a premium in a culture fashioned by heat, sensuality, samba and rule bending. Life can be cheap. You adapt or you perish.
Edmar Bacha, a friend and economist, had coined the term “Belindia” to describe Brazil — a prosperous Belgium perched atop a teeming India. I wrote a story about the poor kids from north Rio, far from the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, who would get their kicks as “train surfers” — riding the tops of fast-moving trains — rather than surf Atlantic waves. Often they died, electrocuted. I will never forget the twisted corpse of one in the city morgue.
Alex Cuadros – The New York Magazine, 08/11/2016
If you only saw the headlines in the lead-up to the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro sounded like the lawless city from a postapocalyptic movie: “Wave of deadly gunbattles hit Rio as the Olympics get closer”; “Body parts wash ashore next to Rio Olympic venue.” Glib listicles played up the threat of political unrest, terrorist attacks, Zika-carrying mosquitoes, and “super-bacteria” in the sewage-tainted bay. One writer used the term “disastrophe” to describe the situation and claimed that so-called “‘lightning kidnappings’ are nearly as popular in Brazil as feijoada” (a delicious bean stew). Another writer topped him with this analogy: “the global event equivalent of a fire tornado touching down on a killer bee sanctuary.”
It was like the Olympics of hyperbolic Olympics scaremongering. Now that the games are on, the hysteria is already looking misplaced. This would have been clear enough to anyone who simply took a walk around the city. The last time I went, at the end of June, Rio was functioning more or less in its usual way: slightly chaotic but manageably so, albeit with fresh construction for the Olympics marring what is perhaps the world’s most beautiful urban topography. Off of Copacabana Beach, I could see locals hopping waves — which suggested that concerns over the quality of the water might be somewhat inflated, too.
It was like the Olympics of hyperbolic Olympics scare-mongering.
I should disclose here that I myself have taken part in the Rio-bashing. I moved to Brazil in 2010, back when the country seemed on the verge of becoming a world power, and watched as the Olympics became an excuse to funnel public money to rich campaign donors for not always useful projects. Still, even I have to admit that Rio has made dramatic improvements in recent years. Perhaps the most dramatic is that the homicide rate, while still appallingly high, has fallen by two-thirds since the 1990s. Even after a spike in murders this year, it’s now less than half the rate in St. Louis, Missouri. And with 85,000 soldiers and police securing Rio for the Olympics, it’s probably one of the safest places in Latin America at the moment.
Teddy Greenstein – The Chicago Tribune, 08/08/2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — I’m generally not one to rip the media — that would be like A-Rod slamming narcissists — but did we ever blow it in the run-up to the Rio Games.
This headline in the Telegraph, a British publication, reflects what I mean: “Why Rio Olympics is on course to be most crime-ridden games.”
The amazing part is that the story ran Thursday, before thousands of athletes managed to march during the opening ceremony without getting mugged.
Simon Romero, Michael S. Schmidt – 08/01/2016
Worried about possible terrorist attacks at theOlympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s government is working closely with American law enforcement and intelligence services to identify threats and thwart potential disasters at the Games.
Despite its notorious battles with violent crime, Brazil has largely been spared the kind of brazen terrorist attacks that have rattled much of the world in recent years, with Brazilian officials long playing down the nation’s vulnerability to homegrown extremism.
But jihadists are calling for mayhem at the Olympics, building on a wave of killings in Europe, the United States and elsewhere over the last year, including the massacre of 130 people in Paris and “lone wolf” attacks inspired by the Islamic State, that has raised broad fears about Brazil’s security preparations for the Games.
Matt Sandy – Times, 07/27/2016
As Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the Olympic Games, beginning on Aug.5, one person won’t be at the opening ceremony—President Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff has been suspended from her office amid charges that she manipulated government accounts, and her impeachment trial is scheduled to take place during the Olympics. She spoke with TIME’s Matt Sandy from the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, where she defended herself against accusations of corruption and promised that Rio would be able to pull off the Games despite a league of doubters.
Read the interview…