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.
Dom Phillips & Dave Sheinin – The Washington Post, 08/18/2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — Two U.S. Olympic swimmers were prevented from leaving Brazil on Wednesday night as differences emerged in their accounts of an armed robbery they said they endured last weekend.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said Wednesday evening that swimmers Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their return flight to the United States by Brazilian authorities.
Early Thursday, the USOC released a statement indicating that Conger and Bentz were no longer being detained but were not yet free to leave the country.
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.
Olivia Arguinzoni- Americas Quarterly, 08/09/2016
New leadership atop Brazil’s massive national development bank is unwinding a decade of rampant lending that fed large conglomerates and strained the country’s finances.
Over the past half-century, Brazil’s Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Economico e Social (BNDES) built huge power plants and highways through the industrial southeast, aided social programs in the drought-ridden northeast, and helped create some of today’s world-leading companies like airplane-maker Embraer and pulp producer Fibria. More recently, it helped save the Rio Olympics with an emergency loan.
Such mega-investment projects played a central role in Brazil’s economy over the last ten years of Workers’ Party rule, during which former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and suspended President Dilma Rousseff showed a particular penchant for state-sponsored development.
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.
Paulo Sotero – The Cipher Brief, 08/05/2016
The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – starting today – had the potential to boost Brazil’s international image. Director of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute and Brazil native, Paulo Sotero, tells The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder that this was always an exaggeration. However, he says the Games are somewhat of a missed opportunity.
TCB: If the Olympic Games in Brazil go well – that is, if there are no major security breaches and if the competitions run smoothly – what will this do for Brazil’s international image? And, conversely, if the Games don’t go well, what will be the effect?
Paulo Sotero: I think in either scenario it will not have a major effect. If things go reasonably well, people will understand that this is what happens in major sporting events globally. Before, there’s always a tendency to exaggerate or highlight the negatives: that the country’s not ready, that the venues will not be ready in time, and that the country has various negative aspects. And then, when you come closer to the events, people realize that what needed to be ready was, in fact, ready.
Dom Phillips – The Washington Post, 08/03/2016
With samba dancers, drumming and a heavy police presence, the Olympic torch landed in Rio on Wednesday morning amid signs that many in the city are finally beginning to succumb to the spirit of the games.
The good mood didn’t last long.
The day started with smiles and ended with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in an outlying town. Along the way, a torch carrier bared his buttocks in a novel protest against Brazil’s unpopular interim president, Michel Temer.
Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 08/01/2016
After being kidnapped by uniformed police in Rio on the eve of the Olympic Games, a young New Zealander proclaimed on Facebook that Brazil “is well and truly f***ed in every sense of the word imaginable.” Many others agreed, from the Australian athletes who arrived in their dorms to find overflowing toilets (and a fire, and then thieves) to Brazilians themselves, 63 percent of whom believe the Games will cause more harm than good to their country. Indeed, if there’s just one thing in this crazy polarized world that Trump-bashers and Hillary-haters, Sunnis and Shiites, and Argentines and Brazilians could seemingly agree on right now, it’s that, man, it sure would be nice to have a do-over on the site of the 2016 Olympics.
the angst will pass once the events actually begin, although there are reasons to be skeptical of this. Because unfortunately, there’s no way to paper over Rio’s problems, which are also for the most part Brazil’s problems. Visitors will be mugged; athletes may get sick; fans may be stranded because of lousy logistics. But at the risk of being shouted down by an army of freshly pickpocketed, sewage-soaked sailors, I propose that everyone cut Brazil just a tiny bit of slack during these next few weeks. Why? Because its main sin in hosting these Olympics was a sin of ambition – and that is precisely the kind of sin the global community should be most willing to forgive.
To explain, let me briefly take you back to 2009, when Rio won the right to host these games. As everyone knows, Brazil was in the middle of a long economic boom that lifted 40 million people out of poverty, put the country on the cover of The Economist, yada yada yada. Even then, it was clear that hosting an Olympics in a democracy in the developing world – arguably for the first time – would bring unique challenges. There would be no “magic” ability to sweep away protesters, pollution or environmental permits for efficiency’s sake, as Beijing had done at the previous year’s Summer Games.