Political turmoil, corruption scandals, delayed construction projects, sewage-filled waters, street thefts and Zika--these are the concerns on the minds of many as the 2016 Summer Olympic Games approach. A month out, are the first South American Olympic games in question? Is Brazil ready for the Olympics?
The Summer Olympic Games are set to begin on the 5th of August. However, with many questions facing Rio de Janeiro and the whole of Brazil, the main focus of the media isn’t on the athletes and sports.
Instead, political events, the recent delay in the subway extension project, and the Zika virus are just some of the headlines dominating the news. Most recently the governor of the state of Rio de declared a state of financial emergency.
It is no wonder that many planning on visiting and attending two weeks of sporting competitions worry if the country is safe and ready for their arrival.
What is going on currently?
Brazil currently has several main issues. The country's president, Dilma Rousseff, was suspended after after being accused of corruption. In addition, Brazil is in the midst of a serious economic recession. In order to prepare for the Olympics, many of Rio de Janeiro's poor, who live in the city's infamous favelas, have been relocated, resulting in protests by those who oppose these evictions and the related spending on the Olympic Games.
It is no wonder the mood of the locals might not be as welcoming as the officials would hope.
Many share the belief that the money spent on the infrastructure could be better spent on needed facilities such as schools, housings and hospitals. It is said that more than 14 billion dollars of public money has been allocated for infrastructure improvements in Rio de Janeiro.
The slow ticket sales for the Olympics reflect the mood of local people and potential tourists' concerns over the political, health, and safety issues in Rio.
General precautions necessary
In addition, despite the decrease in crime in Rio de Janeiro in recent years, cases of street thefts are still very common. Officials have reassured visitors that they are taking this issue seriously with increased police presence in parts of the city. In addition, the city has recently hosted two major events, the World Cup and Pope Franicis’s visit, and there were no major safety issues during either event.
The Brazilian Tourism Institute estimates half a million foreign tourists will arrive in Rio for the Games. Officials advise taking necessary precautions and following some general security tips, like leaving your valuables safely at a hotel. They warn that special attention is needed when traveling on foot.
Will everything be ready?
Traveling around the city famous for bad traffic may require patience, but Rio has an efficient public transportation system. The answer to battling crowded and congested roads is the extension to the subway that will connect Ipanema to the Olympic Park in Barra de Tijuca.
Barra da Tijuca will host most of the thirty two venues of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016 as well as the Olympic village. The subway extension has been postponed to four days prior to the start of the Games.
But that is not the only construction running behind schedule. A statement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) states, "The UCI remains extremely concerned about ongoing delays to the construction of the Velodrome and have raised regular concerns with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and the IOC.” But organizers are promising that the velodrome, which will host the track cycling events, will be completed in June. Other venues are either already completed or are on schedule.
However, another venue has officials worried--Guanabara Bay, where the sailing and windsurfing competitions will take place--because of the heavily polluted waters. This has been a long term problem, caused by the trash fed into the bay.
Many visitors, both spectators and athletes, are far more worried about the Zika virus, but officials reassure the public that the risk will drop in August, when the cooler weather of winter in Brazil will decrease the number of mosquitoes.
However, pregnant women are still being advised not to travel to Rio, since the health of fetuses can be damaged by Zika exposure.
Despite many growing concerns, officials reassure the public that the games will go on according to plan and will be a huge success.