Rio 2016: A Conclusion

One of the biggest sports magazines in Brazil, the Globo Esporte, headlined after the 2 to 0 victory of Germany over Nigeria on the last Wednesday: “If Brazil wins in Maracanã against Germany in the Olympic final will this be a revenge for the 7 to 1?” While the players suspend such utterances and even reject this subject, fans and the media trade verbal barbs. Since then the more garrulous than competent sports commentators of the Olympics mention at every competition with German athletes the forthcoming men’s football final. And of course, they bring up the “sete a um” (one to seven), too. A survey from Sport TV even shows that the majority of the Brazilians believe in a success of their seleção. Some are even convinced that this time the South Americans can win with 7 to 0. No surprise. With its 6-to-0 victory over Uruguay, the Seleção celebrated the highest victory in this Olympic Games. It seems that all other competitions take a back seat when faced with the national religion football – and all scandals are also forgotten. Remember for example the inventende robbery of the US swimmers around Ryan Lochte and the Nazi comparison of the French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie, who was disappointed by the booing concert of Brazilian fans. But the booing belongs to Brazilian stadiums as the caipirinha in any good bar. Some Brazilians even call it an important part of their sports culture.

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Generally, Rio de Janeiro presented itself as a worthy successor of London 2012. The metropolis, which is the first South American venue, combines well everything that makes Brazil a multicultural hotspot. Years ago jocosely called Belinda, a country that is economically somewhere between Belgium and India, Brazil blossomed out from a hyperinflation of over 700 percent annually in the 1980s to one of the top 10 business locations. Therefore, the election as the venue for the Olympic Games in 2009 shouldn’t have been a real surprise for anybody. However, the image of the South American global player suffers since months. When I first traveled to Brazil three years ago, I discovered an emerging economy, which was in a short-term recession. Meanwhile, it has become a serious depression. And the situation on the labor market is getting worse. About seven percent of the Brazilians are unemployed. Further 5.5 per cent still live below the poverty line, which are around 10 million people. When one asks a Carioca outside the posh neighborhoods Ipanema, Copacabana and Barra da Tijuca, if he gets along with salary until the end of the month, he will respond smiling. “I’m happy if I come through the month.” Nobody thinks about the future. Finally, Brazil is the country of tudo bem culture. Whether in the favelas or on the street, if someone greets with tudo bem? (everything alright?), the answer is always the same: Tudo bem. Even poverty is no reason to drive one to despair here.

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Brazil is not for beginners. This was already known by Tom Jobim, the singer of the bossa nova hit “The Girl from Ipanema” and the name giver of the largest airport in Rio de Janeiro. This wasn’t just then, it’s now. Because beside the smiling medal winners, the competition halls, which dominate the skyline like mirages and the TV program that is flooded by the Olympic Games, there is still the other Brazil. A country bigger than whole Europe, which separates rich and the poor by a deep financial divide, but geographically people coexist. Only the high walls of the favelas and the rich single-family homes emphasize this separation. Violence, robberies and murders are commonplace here. The newspaper “O Globo” reported before the Olympic Games, that every two hours a carioca, a resident of Rio, is murdered at the weekend. Thus, the metropolis is one of the most dangerous places in the world. The vast majority of the victims are Afro-Brazilian favela residents. Around 77 percent of all police killings last year were committed to this population group, preferably to young men. These weren’t always armed or involved in drug trafficking. But as a Brazilian one knows to look away, just not to endanger one’s own life. Or rather, one simply looks into another direction, to the bright side of life. After all, life on Brazilian streets isn’t much worthy. Either you adapt or perish.

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Despite the social and economic problems, no one can deny that Brazil today is more an emerging Belgium rather than a gloomy India, equipped with a rich culture, which not just encompasses samba and cachaça. And anyone who doubted that the venues of the Olympic Games wouldn’t be finished in time, should had better taken a look at the mess before the World Cup, 2014. Both times, in fact, the events have been a success. However, with a negative connotation. Because most Brazilians neither wanted the World Cup nor the Olympic Games in their own country and raised a hue and cry against it. Finally, only the already rich middle and upper classes benefit from sporting events. They are also those predominantly white fans who fill the ranks of the competition venues and are responsible for the Brazilian booing. A glimmer of hope in this chasm was caused by the judoka Rafaela Silva, who comes from the favela Cidade de Deus in Rio de Janeiro. After her gold medal win, she explained that a child with a dream is unstoppable, no matter how long it will take for the realization.

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