A simple Christmas Wish for Rio
Despite all of their problems, will Rio again surprise the world? We will soon find out with the XXXI Summer Olympics less than seven months from kicking off.
As construction workers frantically get the over two dozen venues ready and spiffed up for competition, there are still many burning questions–especially with how Brazil’s sorry economy, factored with the very poor and disgusting waterways affecting the rowing, sailing, and swimming portion of the triathlon–these are very tense times indeed.
I reached out via email shortly after the American Thanksgiving holiday to see what some of our real fans here think what might happen to the Rio Olympics legacy.
Once the flame is completely snuffed out and that symbolic moment during the Closing Ceremony takes place when the Mayor of Rio hands off the Olympic flag to the Mayor of Tokyo, Japan–I hope, wish, and pray that not only the true spirit of competition shines throughout those 16 days in August but also to make sure that each athlete takes good care of himself/herself before and after such competitions. Paraphrasing a line from Amy Grant’s memorable 1992 Christmas song, “Grown Up Christmas List”…I do not wish to hear or read about any sick or ill athletes when they get into those waterways.
Two very popular current MPB stars had some interesting things to say to me regarding this simple, yet very thought provoking question:
What would you like to have the Rio Olympics legacy be, once the Games end on August 21, 2016–better schools for the children, cleaner waterways, what thing(s) would you like to see happen once Rio hosts the Games of the XXXI Olympiad?
First up is a singer you read about it in this space when I profiled her music in 2014, Sherie Julianne:
“It’s not something I know a lot about…(but) my hope is for a safe environment for all involved in the event(s)!! I am sure everyone prays for the safety of the athletes!!”
Well said, Sherie. I could not agree with you more.
However, a very popular friend of this blog (who came up with a nice theme song prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup which was also held in Brazil), faced similar circumstances. I recall most people in Brazil as perplexed and very concerned on whether they were able to hold an event of Carnival-like proportions. Don’t get me wrong, soccer (futbol to everyone outside the United States) is Brazil’s national sport and volleyball being a close second. But somehow, someway–outside of a few pockets of minor looting in the streets after Brazil’s shocking semifinal loss to the eventual champions of Germany, they pulled it off.
Fabiana Passoni certainly has a great way of putting things into proper context. I asked her via email while she spent some time in October back in her old hometown of Minas Gerais (just fyi is Brazil’s sixth largest metro area) on what the current vibe among the locals is:
“To be perfectly honest…the vibe in Brazil about the upcoming Olympics isn’t very positive. It never has been from the start (when the IOC vote in October 2009 took place, when they beat out Chicago among such cities). The general population is very upset that the government is spending so much money on that particular event when the schools, roads, (and) infrastructure are still suffering so badly. They were also upset about the World Cup being held there (for the same reasons) and held demonstrations while it was going on.
The political climate in Brazil right now is scary. There is an effort going on to impeach the President (Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first ever female President) and send all the government officials involved in the Petrobras scandal to prison. Even the last President (Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who served from 2003 to 2011) and most of his family is being investigated for corruption.
So I think most people view the Olympics as another waste of taxpayer money with the benefits (the money from tourism) going to the elite, while government services continue to get worse. The average citizen won’t be able to attend any of the events because they can’t afford it. The minimum wage in Brazil is around $350 a month!”
And yes, Fabiana still firmly believes in her heart that Carnival will still be Rio’s huge claim to fame, even after the Olympic Games have ended.
However, I have never known Fabiana to be a woman being all doom and gloom. I hope that maybe Rio could join other famous past Olympic cities as successful hosts along the lines of Los Angeles in 1984 to Barcelona in 1992. And you can also safely mention Sydney from 2000, Athens in 2004, and in some circles that outlandish Opening Ceremony put on by Beijing, China in 2008 as cities facing criticism from those far and wide, but yet they did quite well on every facet from planning to security to overall execution at each venue.
And yes, she manages to put on a happy face with this set of positive statements:
“Still, I would like to be optimistic that as the Olympics draw near that there will be more positive excitement about it. I hope that the ‘Rio Olympics legacy’ (as you refer to it) will be that the citizens of Brazil rose to the occasion and put their best foot forward and embraced the opportunity to present their country on the international stage. The rest of the world needs to see that Brazil is not just about soccer, Carnival, and our beaches. We are a very diverse nation with many cultural differences in our 26 states; just like there are cultural differences in the 50 U.S. states.”
Bravo, Fabiana! Bravo.
Definitely, the fine people that are employed by Comcast owned NBC will be all over this story to give Americans watching like me proper perspective on this very tense time in Brazil’s history–from Bob Costas leading his ninth consecutive prime time Olympics assignment (10th overall dating back to the Centennial Games of Atlanta in 1996) to Lester Holt on the NBC Nightly News along with Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales, and Savannah Guthrie covering things like a blanket for The Today Show.
It leads me to this…my Christmas wish for the fine people of Rio de Janeiro:
I kindly ask all women and men, young and old, rich and poor to simply enjoy yourselves, and try not to do anything foolish or stupid–especially when Charissa Thompson and Mario Lopez hit the streets for Access Hollywood. Above all this, please try your best not to get too big headed about those 16 1/2 days. Savor each event one moment at a time and truly appreciate all the blood, sweat, and tears that it took both literally and figuratively to welcome the world’s greatest athletes in the first ever Olympiad in South American history.
From my family to yours, may this be the best Christmas ever.