Rio has a new excuse to party, said Argentina’s Clarín in an editorial. By choosing Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee last week “made history.” Brazil will be the first South American country ever to host the Games. Rio is a terrific choice: It has a “carnival atmosphere, breathtaking natural beauty, and great weather all year round.” But it’s probably the passion of Brazilians that swayed the committee. When Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva got the news, he shouted and wept openly, before joining the throngs dancing in the streets. From now until 2016, it looks as if Rio will be throwing “one long party.”
It’s exciting, but it’s also sobering, said Rodrigo de Almeida in Brazil’s Jornal do Brasil. Lula summed it up best when he said the selection of Rio brought him both “joy and concern.” The Olympics certainly are a great opportunity for the city, but they also present an opportunity for corruption and waste. We got a taste of these problems when Rio hosted the 2007 Pan American Games, and city and federal authorities spent millions on new arenas and pools that have stood vacant ever since. The Pan Am Games “left a trail of busted budgets, rampant overbilling, and unjustifiable expenditures.” What is ominous is that some of the “perpetrators” of those frauds are already involved in organizing the Olympics.
Corruption is the least of our worries, said Eliane Cantanhêde in Brazil’s Folha. How will we keep the athletes and spectators safe? Rio is “one of the most violent cities in the world,’’ with more than 2,000 murders a year. More police aren’t the answer, since at least one in five murders is committed by cops. Even the children are criminal. In hundreds of shantytowns around the city, gangs of 10-year-olds commit armed robbery, and some of these kids even have grenades. “All that’s missing is tanks”; otherwise we would call it a civil war. Brazil now has seven years to “clear the area of gangs, guns, and corrupt police officers.” Can it be done? “Place your bets.”
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The surest bet, said Boris Herrmann in Germany’s Berliner Zeitung, is that in the end Rio will be disappointed in the transformative power of the Olympics. Every time a city wins an Olympic bid, city officials mistakenly think they’ve struck gold. They “dream of plentiful construction jobs, clean streets, peaceful slums, and a functioning public-transport system.” What they get, though, is inflated rent prices, new subway lines to pointless locations, and “seven years of construction clutter.” The Olympic money won’t eradicate Rio’s poverty or even mitigate its drug and prostitution problems. Rather, it’ll take all the investment Rio can get “just to hide the unsightly parts for the duration of the Games.”
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