The 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were a brilliant spectacle, attracting over 3.7 billion viewers from across the world. While the games were heavily criticized for overspending on venues and inefficiently constructing sports facilities, the games captivated a global audience and ran without a hitch. Unfortunately, many of the venues that dazzled us during the Games have since been left in severe disrepair.
The Maracanã Stadium, a historic stadium that played host to the opening and closing ceremonies, is a prime example of disrepair following the Games. In addition to nearly $1 million in unpaid energy bills, the stadium has been repeatedly looted, with chairs being ripped out from their places, and other items such as fire extinguishers, hoses, and television screens also being stolen. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had hoped that costly renovations to sports facilities would benefit not only the games but also Brazilian athletes in the long term, but vandalism and theft have reduced the impact of state-of-the-art facilities on developing a future generation of Brazilian olympians.
The Olympic grounds now look like a ghost town, with tattered banners overlooking dark and decrepit buildings. The slums near the grounds, hastily whitewashed and cleaned up before the games, have also been left in disrepair. Following upgrades to sanitation systems leading up to the games, locals say that human waste flows in small rivers in roads and between houses in what are called “sewage waterfalls.” The games were supposed to be a kickstart to much-needed improvements in urban slums, but instead resulted in massive corruption resulting from the siphoning of funds. While the Brazilian government planned to rectify their shortcomings, even in 2017, over a year after the actual Olympics, no significant action has been taken to repair urban slums.
The general lack of action to fix projects created by the Olympics is largely due to the massive economic recession that Brazil has been experiencing since 2015. As of January 2017, the unemployment rate in Brazil hit 12.6 percent, a substantial increase from 9.5 percent in 2016. Although that may not sound like much, it is a difference of over 6.4 million people and holds alarming implications for the state of Brazil’s economy. The Games were seen as a possible solution to the economic woes of Brazil, creating a frenzy of economic activity, but the positive effects of the Olympics were reversed by numerous examples of corruption and overspending for the Games. The recession has been further worsened by recent investigations into bribery scandals involving the Brazilian government and several large companies, and many cases have emerged as having connections to the Olympic Games.
Sadly, it is unlikely that the Rio Olympic facilities will see repair any time soon, with Brazil’s economy in the middle of a recession and with its government having no meaningful incentive for improvements to happen. It is truly a shame that the same glistening venues we saw built to celebrate the world’s grandest athletic competition could so quickly go to waste once the international spotlight was turned away. This was not a one-off example—the 2004 Olympics in Athens, for example, were a major contributing factor to the debt crisis in Greece, and the 2012 Winter Olympics in Sochi were the most expensive games ever, resulting in overall negative economic activity for Russia. We can only hope that this process does not repeat itself in 2018 at Pyeongchang or 2020 at Tokyo, and that governments put more effort towards the upkeep of these marvels of humanity.