In which country will the 2016 Olympics take place?


Greta Hamann

is a journalist and works for Deutsche Welle.

Rio de Janeiro is the first city in South America to host the Olympic Games. The fact that the Summer Games will be held in the Brazilian winter is just one of the many contradictions that can be seen in the "cidade maravilhosa" (German: wonderful city) in the course of the preparations for the Olympic Games.

Military police patrol cars secure the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro. More than 85,000 security guards are said to be deployed during the Rio Olympics. (& copy dpa)

Around 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from 204 nations, over 75,000 volunteers and at least half a million spectators from home and abroad await Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games. On the first day of the competitions alone, more people will be out and about in the city on the Sugar Loaf than on the seven match days of the 2014 World Cup, which were held in Rio. [1]

But in order for the athletic activities of the Olympians not to be exhausted in a walk on the famous Copacabana, a lot had to happen in Rio de Janeiro. Sports facilities were built or modernized according to the Olympic requirements, local public transport was expanded and hotels expanded their capacities.

In addition, sponsors of the games were guaranteed strict brand protection and they were given exclusive rights to advertising space. Accredited employees of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) enter the country without a visa. All of this was cast into a legal form with the "Olympic Law", the "Ato Olimpico". The law was drafted in 2009 - even before it was clear whether the Games would even come to Rio de Janeiro - and approved by all legislative levels in Brazil. It lays the foundation for the numerous exemptions granted by the Brazilian state in the course of the preparations for the Olympic Games. The law is therefore also the legal basis for public spending of at least six billion euros, for the resettlement of at least 4,000 people - mostly lower income groups - and for the conversion of entire city districts into lucrative speculative objects in the real estate market.

Rio security chief: "I have to obey the IOC"

The law fulfills all the wishes of the International Olympic Committee for the organization of the Summer Olympic Games. For this purpose, some of the applicable regulations and laws were temporarily suspended. "The IOC wants some things that are a bit complicated," said the security chief of the city of Rio de Janeiro José Beltrame in July 2016 during a visit to a delegation of European journalists, "but the committee can ask what it wants, I have to obey." [2] For many Brazilians, this is like selling out the country to the IOC.

The proposed law was so important to the then President Luiz "Lula" da Silva that he traveled to Copenhagen specifically to hand it over to the Olympic Committee in person. On October 1, 2009, one day before the host city for the 2016 Games was announced, Lula once again emphasized how important it was to him to host the Games. One will hold on to the opportunity with "teeth and fingernails" [3], said the President in front of 150 journalists gathered shortly after the law was passed. The Olympic Games in Rio were supposed to put the whole country in the elite of the world powers at once.

Just one day later, Rio de Janeiro was awarded the contract - and had even prevailed against the hometown of US President Barack Obama Chicago. Lula tearfully thanked the IOC officials for the decision and said, "If I died today, I would know that it was worth it". Meanwhile, his delegation danced through the foyer and thousands of people cheered at Copacabana.

"Olympia, for whom?"

Since then, many people have come to Copacabana again and again [4] - but less often to celebrate their city and more often to protest against the Olympics, the World Cup and against corruption. One year before the soccer World Cup in 2014, millions of people across Brazil asked "Copa, para quém?", Meanwhile they want to know for whom the Olympic Games are being hosted ("Olimpíadas, para quem?", German: Olympic Games, for whom?) . "For all Brazilians," said President Lula more than six years ago, "for all people in Rio de Janeiro," says Mayor of Rios Eduardo Paes today, who is so enthusiastic about the games in Rio that he even has a small one in his office Plastic figure of himself exhibited in a glass cube - the Olympic torch in hand. [5]

It is obvious that a lot has changed since the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were accepted. For years, the residents of Rio lived with numerous large construction sites. Shortly before the handover of the Olympic flame in the legendary Maracanã stadium, almost all construction sites - contrary to the expectations of numerous critics - were completed. In local public transport alone, Rio de Janeiro now has a 155-kilometer new express bus route, a 28-kilometer tram route and 450 kilometers of new cycle paths. Added to this are the mega-projects in the Barra da Tijuca district, the location of the "Barra Olympic Park", where, in addition to the 20,000-bed Olympic village, a new golf course (the third in Rio de Janeiro) was built [6] and the complete renovation of the harbor district "Porto Maravilha" (German: wonderful harbor) in the center of the city. Three hundred million euros in public funds were spent on this expansion of the previously run-down port area into a luxurious residential area. [7]

Overall, the Olympic Games cost the equivalent of around ten billion euros. That is expenditure on a similar level as it was made by Greece in 2004 for the games in Athens, for example, and it is less than the at least 13 billion euro expenditure for London in 2012.

In making this comparison, however, one should not ignore the fact that the living conditions of the majority of the populations of these countries still differ greatly, despite the economic and social boom in Brazil over the past few decades. "In Rio the tiles are falling from the roofs of the public schools, teachers receive a miserable salary - if it is paid at all. The teachers have been on strike for over four months." That's what Carlos Vainer says. He is a professor at the Institute for Regional and Urban Research and Planning at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the largest federal university in Brazil. He is a native "Carioca", as the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro call themselves. And like most Cariocas, Carlos Vainer can get quite emotional when asked about his hometown and the Games: "Rio de Janeiro is a city where doctors don't have drugs. Rio is a city where public hospitals are falling apart . In a city like this, it's just absurd that real forty to sixty billion is being spent on the Olympics. "

The problems of the city are just as unmistakable as the numerous construction projects made for the major event, such as the futuristic-looking one in the port district of Rio: long queues in front of public hospitals, young people begging at traffic lights, traffic jams, the run-down rooms of the state university occupied by students Schools or the striking police officers who greeted tourists in the arrival hall of the international airport in June. In their hand they held a banner: "Welcome to Hell". They too are currently receiving their salary with a long delay - and then only in installments.

50 days before the start of the games, the state of Rio de Janeiro declared a financial emergency - and received around three billion reals (around 780 million euros) in emergency aid from the federal government. One of the reasons for the state's economic crisis is the sharp drop in the price of oil and the associated drop in income. However, a decree published in connection with the emergency transfer also stated that the organization of the sporting event had created serious difficulties in basic public services and could lead to a breakdown in public safety, health, education, mobility and environmental management. [8th] It was only thanks to the direct transfer of funds from the federal government that the Olympic and Paralympic Games could be carried out and the public services in the city ensured.

The all-round package for the IOC: low cost sharing and exclusive advertising rights

Safety, health, mobility - all of these things are prerequisites for the success of the Olympic Games. However, the International Olympic Committee does not contribute to these costs. On the contrary: the state has undertaken to bear the costs of providing these services itself, i.e. to cover them with taxpayers' money. [9] Up until August 2015, the Olympic law even contained a passage according to which Brazil approved "the allocation of funds to cover any operational deficits of the Organizing Committee of the 2016 Olympic Games". This is no longer valid since a change in the law.

But the IOC has legally secured other sources of income. The guarantee for the granting of exclusive rights to use and, above all, to sell advertising space continues to exist. For the period of the Games, advertising space in and around Brazilian airports in the country with a population of over 200 million as well as advertising space in "federal areas of interest for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games" belong to the IOC. [10]

"The Olympic law is the complete sale of Brazil to a private company - the IOC. The law gives it great power over public funds, but has never been elected by any Brazilian in a democratic process," says Martim Sampaio. The lawyer from São Paulo is the human rights officer of the local bar association and has long been concerned with the effects of major events on the city and people. In addition, the 57-year-old was active in the resistance during the military dictatorship. The kind of laws that are passed in the course of major events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games in Brazil make him think back more and more often to the times of dictatorship. In his opinion, exceptional laws such as the World Cup or Olympic Law are not even the most worrying.

Anti-terrorism law calls numerous critics on the stage

"The World Cup law was just the beginning. The World Cup and the Olympic Games that followed passed many other laws and regulations, often unnoticed." One law in particular gives the human rights commissioner a headache. The anti-terror law passed in February 2016. "It's extremely authoritarian," says Sampaio. The United Nations High Committee on Human Rights (UNO) also criticized it. "The law contains provisions and definitions that are too vague and imprecise and therefore do not, in our view, comply with the standards of the International Convention on Human Rights," wrote the UN in a press release. [11] "The anti-terror law creates a state of emergency in Brazil which, for example, greatly simplifies the criminalization of social movements," says Martim Sampaio. In addition, the government uses the law to control the opposition and poorer sections of the population. "The Olympic Games are extremely lucrative business for certain sections of society as well as for the political parties". Thanks to the anti-terror law, mass protests like the one before the World Cup in 2013 would no longer be possible or would be very difficult to implement, Sampaio believes.

The first arrests based on the new anti-terror law have already taken place, ten alleged supporters of the so-called Islamic State were arrested just two weeks before the start of the games. [12] Nobody denies that the rather low terror risk in Brazil has increased due to the international sports festival. [13] But that doesn't mean that the country needs new laws, says Sampaio: "We have enough offenses. New offenses neither reduce crime nor the risk of terrorism. In Brazil, 200,000 people are in prison. We are the fourth country in the world with the most inmates. Only in the USA, Russia and China are there more. "

Using a simple example, Sampaio makes it clear that the law can apply to the lowest levels. "Brazilians like to eat what is known as 'Churrasquinho de Gato', or little cat skewer, on the street. This is what the people of Rio de Janeiro call the street vendors' grilled meat skewers, which you often see at night, especially in lively party districts. But in areas like the Olympic Park, Sampaio believes that one will have to look for such a long time: "Numerous hurdles are already being set up for access to the Olympic Park. In the end, fire protection measures or some other reason are put forward to prevent such people from entering the site to let."

Barra da Tijuca - symbol of a divided city

In Barra da Tijuca, most of the competitions take place in nine stadiums, the huge media center for thousands of journalists from all over the world is located here, and around 15,000 athletes and their teams in the Olympic village will also live here. "Barra da Tijuca is a single large urban estate, controlled by a small number of owners who have close links with politics," says Professor of Urban Development Carlos Vainer. Barra da Tijuca is naturally separated from the rest of the city by a small mountain. "Barra da Tijuca is a ghetto of the middle class and the upper class. This district symbolizes the great inequalities that exist in Rio de Janeiro and an expression of the process of the destruction of public space, the district is a small anti-Rio de Janeiro" says Vainer.

Around 300,000 people live in Barra da Tijuca. For comparison: in the entire metropolitan region there are almost twelve million, most of them live in the poorly accessible north of the city. Even so, most of the Olympic investments have been made in Barra da Tijuca. Due to the expanded subway line, which will then connect the district with Ipanema and Copacabana, and the direct bus connection to the international airport, the residents of the district will also benefit enormously in terms of transport connections. In addition, the construction companies continue to earn money here after the games - and not only thanks to the upgrading of the district with public funds. An example: Carlos Carvalho, who is known as the "owner of Barra da Tijuca", will convert the Olympic village into luxury apartments after the Games, and he has registered similar projects for the Olympic Park. The man, who already owns over 10 million square meters in Barra da Tijuca, described the Olympic Games as a "blessing". London shows that there is another way, where the Olympic village left cheap housing. [14]

Construction groups and companies have secured the rights of use in most cases (also in the case of the Olympiapark and Olympiadorf) thanks to so-called public-private partnerships. The companies give part of the money for the construction, but are allowed to take the profits after the games. It comes as no surprise that many of these companies commissioned for the Olympics were important financiers in the election campaign of the mayor Eduardo Paes, who was enthusiastic about the Olympics. According to UFRJ professor Carlos Vainer, these "processes of privatizing the entire urban space in Rio de Janeiro started even before these sporting events." The World Cup and the Olympic Games would have intensified this development a lot.

"Mega events like the World Cup and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro work like Robin Hood, only the other way around. You take the poor and give it to the rich," says Carlos Vainer.

Rio de Janeiro knows its way around major events - in the past ten years the city has already hosted the 2007 Pan-American Games, the 2011 World Military Games, the "Rio plus 20" climate summit in 2012 and the Confederations Cup and World Youth Day (including a visit to the Pope ) 2013 - added to this are the annual Carnival and New Year celebrations, which attract millions of tourists from all over the world.

But it is not the big events themselves that are the problem, explains Vainer: "Every year at Carnival and New Year's Eve we see that there are events that come from the life and tradition of the Cariocas and that work well. These are not just one events Turning nice things like sport into a business and which are not imposed on the outside. "

Shortly before the start of the Games, half of the Brazilian population would like the Olympic Games not to take place and over 60 percent believe that the Olympics will do more harm than good. [15]

The Olympic Games and World Cup and the exceptional laws passed for them are not the reason for the problems that still need to be addressed in Brazil. Also, the question of whether the country would be better off today without these two major sporting events will probably never be answered.But the World Cup and Rio 2016 put the contradictions that prevail in the country on display as if on a presentation plate. Decades ago, the world-renowned Brazil expert Kenneth Maxwell of Harvard University said of Brazil: "Since the conquerors landed in Brazil, the state has only had one function of developing mechanisms so that those in power can enrich themselves personally can. "[16]

The Cariocas pride themselves on their ability to improvise. And few doubt that the Olympic Games will run smoothly. But the majority of Brazilians will probably pay the price for this short party for a long time to come.

Further reading:

Dawid Danilo Bartelt: The other side of the coin Major sporting events in Brazil between bad planning, speculation and the right to the city, Writings on Democracy Volume 39, published by Heinrich Böll Foundation - available online as PDF