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Corruption and calamity in Rio's Games of exclusion

  • 08 August 2016


The Rio 2016 Olympics has already earned a well-deserved label — the jogos da excludad, the games of exclusion. It is a label — carved in banners and street graffiti — that shames a ruling class that got its priorities wrong.

In the name of the Games, 77,000 residents of Rio's favelas have been evicted and hundreds of these settlements where the poor live have been bulldozed. Those favelas that avoided the blades of the bulldozers have been hidden behind concrete walls approximately 10km long and 3m high, built at a cost of US $17.6 million.

In front of a global audience the poor are hidden behind walls; walls that epitomise what theologian Leonardo Boff has called the 'lack of shame' living deep in the Brazilian soul.

When Rio was awarded the Games in 2009 Brazil, the world's fifth-largest country, was in economic recovery. It was a time when the country was heading to become, as the World Bank erroneously forecasted, the world's fifth economy.

It was a good time in Brazil. From 2006 to 2010 the Brazilian economy, the largest in Latin America, was growing annually at an average of more than 4 per cent. The swelling prices for exported commodities were heralding a time of abundance.

But as happens too often in Latin America, the economy went into free fall when the price of commodities dropped. So all hopes of an economic recovery rested on Rio 2016.

You don't need to be an economist to know that such hopes can often be false. Perhaps Rio 2016 should have looked back to Athens 2004, whose games ended up costing Greece $16 billion and sent the whole country into a hellish economic tragedy.

And Rio 2016 could well follow Brazil to a similar tragedy; after all this city of 6.3 million was financially broke even before the Games started. Only three months ago, in June, the government of Rio declared a 'state of public calamity'.


"It is a police force armed to the teeth with a single-minded mission to repress just about anybody that embarrasses the Games."


That the Games will bring more complications than benefits is a conjecture that at least 60 per cent of Brazilians agree with. It is a conjecture underpinned by pretty good evidence. The 2007 Brazil Pan-American Games and the 2014 Football World Cup left behind extravagant infrastructure that became white elephants and sources of corruption. It is true that construction of Rio