By Ken Reed

The hope was that hosting the Summer Olympics would give Rio de Janeiro an economic and psychological boost. Instead, the city is in the midst of financial, political and crime-ridden chaos.

A recent Washington Post feature article by Dom Phillips reveals a mess of shocking proportions. The government is broke and struggling to pay the salaries of police and firefighters. A week ago, riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades at public sector workers (including police, firefighters and teachers) protesting the government’s proposed austerity package. Two former governors have been arrested, one accused of vote-buying and the other of running a vast corruption ring. Violent crime is rising amid cries of execution-style mass killings by overtaxed police. Drug gang activity and murders are up.

The bright, cultural, and economic post-Olympic boom promised to local citizens is nowhere to be found. The world’s elite athletes and avid sports fans have left and what’s left is crime and corruption on a grand scale.

“It’s in the worst condition in 20 years,” says Ignacio Cano, a professor of sociology at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “You have an economic crisis, a political crisis, a moral crisis. There is a general perception of a very dark time.”

Nelson Mandela once said:

“Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way little else can — it is an instrument of peace.”

That can be true. But it can’t be in cases in which unethical, corrupt and greed-driven politicians, event-organizers and media executives are at the helm. In those cases, addressing the question, “What’s best for the people?” becomes a very low priority indeed.

That’s the sad situation in Rio as 2016 comes to an end.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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