In 2009, Brazil was chosen to be the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics Games. At the time, my country was in a stable situation. While the whole world was facing the 2008 financial crises, Lula’s government (our ex-president) was able to control the country’s inflation and increase our GDP to extraordinary numbers. Brazil had the seventh greatest economy in the world. In order to get the nomination for Rio de Janeiro as the next Olympic city, President Lula argued that our country was living in excellent times. In a speech on October 2, 2009, he said, “We have an organized and thriving economy, which [can] confront smoothly the crisis that still plagues many nations.” But did we really?
In 2013, one year before Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup, our public debt was 2,1 trillion Brazilian reais (R$) (approximately $840 billion US). In fact, since the beginning of Dilma Rousseff’s government in 2011, our public debt increased more and more, reaching to R$2,95 trillion in June of this year (approximately $842 billion US). From that point on, Brazil would face one of its more overwhelming crises. By 2015, Rousseff started to face an impeachment trial, which ended last Wednesday, August 31, with her defeat. Still, in the middle of this economic and political chaos, we hosted the Olympics, and everything worked out for the most part. But what did we, the Brazilian people, think about it?
After asking some Brazilian friends and relatives about their expectations for the Olympics, the general answer was “concerned.” To 17-year-old student Eduardo Brandão, his fear was that Brazil didn’t have enough infrastructure to hold the games. When I asked Isabela Mendes, a 16-year-old student, she said, “I thought it would be a bit disastrous… I thought it would happen a lot of protest just like what occurred in the World Cup. It’s because we are going through some unstable times.” However, the concerns weren’t all about whether or not Brazil was able to host the Olympics, but also about how much money the country was going to waste in building good infrastructure for the games in the middle of such a large economic crisis.
Definitely, we were right to be concerned; about $14.4 billion dollars were invested in the Olympics. “I’m intrigued by how much public money was spent on the event,” Eduardo said. “This money could have been invested in education and health, both of which Brazil still needs to evolve.” However, what few Brazilians know is that about 51% of the Olympics’ costs came from private participation. Both local and foreign sponsors helped to build the games’ infrastructure, and, in addition, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) contributed with $100 million dollars to the Rio 2016 committee. Still, a large amount of money was wasted, and now that the games have come to an end, most Brazilians are still wondering if we will ever get the chance to enjoy the new structures for which so much money was spent.
According to my aunt, Paola Cruz Marques, a 47-year-old public worker, we can. She argued that the transportation and security systems have improved, as well as the tourist potential, and the population can benefit from the new buildings. Also, future investments in our country are expected: “The success of the Olympics changed the way that foreign people see us, and this can bring more tourists and foreign investment to our country” another 16-year-old student, Théo Ortega, told me. But, at the same time, when I asked if the Olympics were a good investment for Brazil, there was some displeasure. My mother, Maria Dilce Cavalcanti de Castro, believes there was more spending than earnings, and we need other kinds of investments, like new hospitals and schools. According to my 24-year-old sister Emiliana, a veterinary student, we will never use the new buildings again: “When I visit Athens, I realized that the Olympics’ infrastructure is totally left behind. I remember people being very sad that they invested a lot of money on it and now they don’t use it anymore.”
On the other hand, investments go beyond money, and after showing that we were capable of executing the games, many people seemed happier with our country. Emiliana, who lived in Indiana for a short time in high school in 2008 and worked in Minneapolis during four months in 2012, believes that the games were important to show the world who we really are. She noted, “The first time I lived in the USA, I felt like they knew very little about Brazil. The second time I went there I realized that this wrong perspective about my country had changed a lot because of the World Cup and Olympics.” Moreover, to Mendes, the Olympics games were also responsible for changing the way Brazilians see their country: “It was an important event to increase our nationalism, which was so bad. I believe that being patriotic is very important.” She said, “I liked the way Brazilian people were so proud of their country”.
And we truly were. After a stunning opening ceremony, all Brazilians were happily commenting about it. “Brazil was represented by the colors, music and dance. Our culture is of great extension, and it was well represented.” Brandão said. According to my sister Emiliana, Brazil showed its potential of hosting a marvelous party with much creativity and empowerment: “I found that was very cool that it showed the issue of transphobia. Who took our flag was Lea T, who is a transsexual woman.” She told me, “Brazil proved to be an opened place.” Indeed, my country is an open and beautiful place, with wonderful people and some great music. At least, that’s what our most well-paid supermodel of the world, Gisele Bündchen, showed, along with Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Morais’s song, “Garota de Ipanema.”
Finally, the games have ended. And now that our job is finished, hopefully the world’s opinion of Brazil has matured. Our country is beautiful, with much culture, delicious food, all kinds of dances, amazing musicians, and very talented poets. Our land is rich, our people are friendly, and our imagination and creativity do not seem to have a limit. Sadly, we are passing for some hard times, but we are always able to deal with them with good humor and learn from them. Public school teacher Maria Aparecida Batista said, “Brazil is a beautiful place, and we nailed it. I’m very optimistic and proud of my country.”