Hosting the Olympics is no small task; it involves the construction of facilities for the various events as well as housing for the athletes and others affiliated with the games, which takes a whole lot of space, time, money, and planning. The 2016 Olympic Games, from Aug. 5 to 21, will take place in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro. Hosting the Games is often seen as an honor and an opportunity to highlight a city's strengths, but scrutiny surrounding the development leading up to the Games is often a source of controversy. Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio, is feeling the heat.
According to The Guardian, some of the controversy surrounding the development in the city includes where money is being spent and how many people have reportedly been displaced from their homes to make way for the new construction. Investments related to the Games that will outlast the Olympics include updates to Rio's transportation system, such as new rapid bus systems. However, some critics claim that the investments aren't being directed to the city's poorest areas, and that tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes, according to a USA Today report.
Paes denied these claims, The Guardian reported, saying that three-quarters of the city's investment goes to its poorest areas. He also puts the figure of people displaced by the bus systems in the low thousands, and that of people displaced by exclusively Olympic-related construction in the hundreds.
Paes also faced criticism for problems with the athletes' village, which houses the Olympians. The apartments were not secured, and people allegedly invaded them and stole from them before athletes moved in. And, just two weeks ahead of the Games' opening ceremony, Australian athletes refused to move into the village, citing apparent blocked toilets, exposed wiring, and other issues. According to Paes, the Rio 2016 committee is culpable for these problems, not him or the Brazilian government. The IOC and Rio 2016 committee responded to the complaints stating that they were urgently addressing the issues: "We regret any inconvenience that this may cause and we greatly appreciate the understanding of the National Olympic Committees at this time."
The Olympics are coming at a tense and fragile time for Brazil. Not only has it been battling the Zika virus, but the country's president, Dilma Rousseff, is being impeached by the Senate regarding charges that she broke fiscal responsibility laws, despite her claiming her ousting is a "parliamentary coup," according to TIME. On top of that, the country is experiencing its worst recession in over 100 years, TIME reported, connected to a corruption scandal at a Brazilian oil company, of which Rousseff was board chair. She denies all allegations of any knowledge of wrongdoing.
Although he doesn't feel that his country or his city has been putting their best face forward throughout the lead-up to the 2016 Games, Paes is grateful for the opportunity to update the city's transportation system, The Guardian reported. "Things are happening because of the Olympics,” he said. “Even in a time of crisis we keep pushing."
We'll see if the mayor can maintain his positive outlook throughout the Games and dodge further controversy.