A virus that permanently disables infants and paralyzes adults. A multi-billion dollar corruption scandal. A president—the first woman ever elected to the job—removed from office in a nasty partisan vote.
The circumstances leading up to the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio are certainly far less favorable than what organizers had in mind when Rio won the Olympic bid in 2009. At the time, it seemed like Brazil, 200-million strong and with a booming economy, was ready to cash in on its growth and become a world-class power—with showcase events like the World Cup and the Olympics to prove it. With months to go before the Games, pressure is mounting to deliver a successful and safe Olympics against a backdrop of intense political turmoil, a massive corruption scandal, a sharp economic downturn and a major public health crisis.
(Click here to read about 5 Major Questions Facing Rio as the Olympics Approach)
Put it all together and it’s easy to imagine how Cariocas (as residents of Rio are known) might be disillusioned about the upcoming Olympics. But every time the Games come around, we hear about the illustrious “Olympic spirit” that inevitably takes over the host city — a frenetic energy, an unmistakable excitement, about the world’s best athletes and spectators from all corners of the globe in one place. Despite the circumstances, will the Olympic spirit inevitably take over Rio 2016 too? Paste hit the streets of Copacabana to find out how Cariocas feel about the upcoming games.
“I’m not very excited, I think it’s a lot of turmoil for the city — all the traffic, construction, crowds interrupting everyday life for the people who live here… I think the city will get into the Olympic spirit, the foreigner visitors will bring this.”
— Christiane Correia, 50, statistician from Rio
“I’m disappointed with the Olympics — everything is the same here, nothing has improved. I think the games won’t bring anything, it’ll all be abandoned after… it seems like the government prefers to develop the city for tourists and not the people who live here…. I think the city will get in the spirit, but not as much as the World Cup because soccer is so much more popular here.”
— Ingrid Bello, 21, unemployed, from Nilópolis, a city on the outskirts of Rio.
“I think the city will get into the Olympic spirit. People say Brazil is in a bad position to host the event with all that’s going on but I think people are excited… Rio is a good host city for the Olympics, it’s a good city for tourists, it’s a cool and fun place.”
— Rafael Ribeiro, 26, receptionist at a laboratory, lives in Copacabana.
“I’m excited because the city will receive people from all over the world and Rio will prove it has infrastructure to hold such an event, that Brazil is a developed country. But on the other hand, it’s a complicated time… Rio will get in the Olympic spirit, Cariocas have this spirit — there’s the saying of Cariocas, the legend, that Cariocas embrace all people, they’re very receptive… But I don’t think Rio should have hosted the Olympics, before Rio receives an event like this, it needs to take care of its people.”
— Guilherme Joaquim Oliveira, 20, engineering student from Rio.
“It’s crap. This country is full of thieves… there’s shootings, not here in Copacabana, but in the poor areas of Rio, there’s the aedes aegypti mosquito, Chicangunya (SPELLING), Zika. Things have never been so bad here… we already spent too much money on the World Cup, now we have to have the Olympics too? It’s too much spending. I think the Olympics should be in China, or in the United States. In Rio, they need to take care of its people, address healthcare, education, and public security problems.”
— Luis Ricardo, 62, retired hotel and restaurant manager, lives in Copacabana.
“They’re spending money on events and parties and not on more important things like healthcare, these days you go to the public hospital, wait all day and you leave just as bad as you were when you came in. There’s no medication, they’re always low on supplies… I don’t think the people will get into the Olympic Spirit, I think it’ll be weak because of all the problems we’re having, people aren’t excited.”
— Lourdes da Silva, 57, street vendor, lives in Rio’s Jacarezinho favela.
“I’m not very excited, and I’ve even bought tickets to go to the Olympics… I think it will be harmful to the image of the country because there’s going to be a lot of street crime, and maybe problems with shoddy construction — you already saw the bike path that collapsed and killed two people! A lot could go wrong… The people will get into the spirit, Brazilians like parties and big events like this… It’s tough to celebrate for a whole month knowing all that’s going on. But at the end of the day… the locals will get in the spirit, as to not disappoint the foreigners… I think we have other priorities to spend all that money on. We just had the World Cup — I think that’s enough for big events.”
— Eduardo Oleari, 27, tax lawyer, from Espirito Santo, lives in Copacabana.
“I’m not really excited, I think there’s other priorities, there’s a political circus going down and the economic situation is really affecting a lot of people… The result is that a lot of Brazilians aren’t excited, we’re passing through a complicated moment… The people won’t be the same as with the World Cup, the Olympics is different, soccer is much more exciting for Brazilians… Look, at the time when Rio got the Olympics we weren’t in the same position we are in now, that was some six years ago, when the economic and political situation was much better. Look at us now!”
—Mariano Gomes, 45, mechanic on the Rio metro, Rio resident.