There can be no argument of the unique unifying power of the Olympic Games, bringing people of many nationalities to the coveted hosting city for several weeks. Of course, this requires much preparation—the games must be met with fanfare and showmanship to surpass the previous years. The hosting city is restored, new structures are built to hold the events, older buildings are subjected to a “face lift,” damaging features are scrubbed away leaving only a reminiscent worn spot. Hosting countries are willing to go the extra mile cost-wise if only to put them “on the map,” if only for short while–but is it worth it? The biannual, worldwide event in more recent times has often had a cost higher than the profit. For example, the summer Olympics hosted in Beijing cost around $40 billion and only brought in a profit of around $16 million.
So, why do countries want to host the Olympics? According to an article from The Economist, the foremost reason for hosting the Olympics is the overall support from the general public, in the past 70 percent in Tokyo, 76 percent in Madrid and 83 percent in Istanbul voted in favor of hosting the games. Further, the Olympics also allow for countries to take part in a form “peacocking”, or proud displays of their assets, both architecturally and financially. The Olympic Games can also act as an approach to making a country more desirable as a destination or a variety of beneficial tools for altering other countries’ perceptions. But, this active pursuit of a positive appearance often leads to an erasure of structural issues much deeper than the games.
Already, there is controversy surrounding the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. First, the area is filled with unrest as there is tension between residents and the government. The slums around the city are being removed, and about 8,000 families will be forced to relocate, to accommodate the need for more structures to hold the games. In a study done by MIT, it was shown that government officials go door to door to negotiate as tactic for intimidation. Moreover, the new structures are being built through private construction firms that have plans for luxury apartments. Another issue is the pollution of many of the bodies of water near the city, particularly Guanabara Bay. It is to be the place for sailing and windsurfing events, but it is tainted with sewage and garbage. One biologist, Mario Moscatelli, says the state has technology for the clean-up, but the politicians do not believe it should be held as a priority–they are as of April 2015 only at 49 percent of their proposed cleanup goal.
Which brings the issue of water, Brazil is experiencing one of its worst droughts, other large cities have begun rationing water, Rio is very likely next. Unfortunately, this equates to an energy issue as well.
According to Anna J. Kaiser in an article for Time, about 70 percent of Brazil’s energy comes from hydropower. The turbines of Brazil’s principle plant will no longer run if the water level falls lower than 10% (they are currently at 17%). And finally, though the crime rates in Rio de Janeiro have fallen, the street robberies have risen to levels not seen since the 90s. The response has been a collective increase in the police presence, and have in the past avoided any serious crime in the time of larger past events. Again, it must be asked if hosting the Olympic games is indeed an investment or a risk.