Olympics, politics overwhelm Rio; athletic carnaval goes on

Rio de Janeiro is proof that a nation can hide its problems with a smile.

Millions watched and appreciated the Olympic opening ceremony in Rio as Brazil, the country of samba, created an amazing and unique presentation, even with a limited budget. This overshadowed the political chaos of a country of more than 200 millionpeople with problems of corruption and poverty.

As a Brazilian, I watched TV expecting a brilliant presentation. I knew my country would amaze the world and make me proud of my heritage. And yet, I was curious about what they would reveal about the present situation at home. 

The opening ceremony was directed by Fernando Meirelles, co-director of “City of God,” a 2002 movie about drug dealers controlling the city of Rio de Janeiro. Under Meirelles the opening ceremony was divided into two themes;  one telling the history of Brazil and the other a warning to the world about the dangers of climate change.

The ceremony was presented with a lot of energy, beautiful people, tons of colors, music and the roar of the public. We experienced Brazilian culture through its iconic idols, including supermodel Gisele Bündchen in the last walk of her professional career, and the music of Antônio Carlos Jobim.

Brazil showed the world how to celebrate the biggest sporting event on the planet, but what many people didn’t know was that Brazil has been dealing with health, violence and government crises.

On Aug. 5 the Brazilian newspaper Carta Capital reported that since 2009 when Brazil was chosen as the host of the Olympics Games 2016, about 70,000 families were pushed out of their neighborhoods to make space for the Olympic facilities. Brazil spent more than 6 billion Brazilian reais (about 2 billion USD) to build the Olympic Village (according to Brazilian newspaper O Globo as of August 2016).

Brazil might not be at the top of the list when it comes to Olympic medals, but it is leading the world in the number of homicides. According to the Brazilian newspaper Valor Econômico, nearly to 60,000 homicides occurred in 2014.

In the last nine months, the country has been under a lot of tension. Millions of people took to the streets to call for Brazil’s president to be impeached. An investigation by the federal police into money laundering and corruption at the state oil company Petrobrás extended to most all levels of government,including the presidency. 

Operation Car Wash revealed that more than 10 billion Brazilian reais were stolen through the schemes.  The investigation resulted in the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff amid allegations of extortion and corruption. 

As if that wasn’t enough, according to the latest information released by Brazil’s Ministry of Health, more than 174 million people had fever caused by the Zika virus. One person died this year as a result. 

Brazil did a great job recreating its Carnaval to the world. The games were spectacular, exciting and worth watching. The question that remains is, what will be Brazil’s future now that the games are over?