1:42pm May 21, 2014

Brazil’s failure with the Olympics will harm Latin America


Brazil has a nightmare on its hands. The international Olympic committee (IOC) is making a very loud point about the failure of the nation to be on time with assembling the stadiums. Also, the clearing out of favelas to bring down crime, as well as the displacement of indigenous people has also made the news. The failure of Brazil to be prepared for the games, should this go through, calls into question the image of the nation – as well as the rest of the Americas.

This can only serve as an egg in the face of Latin America for two crucial reasons. First, Brazil is the only nation with the economic capabilities to host, when compared to its neighbors. The other nations in the region likely lack the economic strength to do so. Second, people will likely generalize that the entire region is incompetent to host events and engagements of such a massive scale.

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, and it is one of the strongest economic powers in the region. It is one of the four BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) member states, a rank and honor that puts it’s economic strength next to that of rising China, India, and Russia. There is little question that Brazil is the economic leader in the region – Brazilian gross domestic product (GDP) is double that of Mexico, the second strongest economy in the region. Brazil’s population in poverty also eclipses Mexico. While 52% of the Mexican population is in poverty at the national poverty line, only 15.9% of Brazilians are in poverty.

Other, smaller countries in the region are also relatively weak in comparison to Brazil and it’s economy. If the regional leader, and a member of the group of nations that rivals the Group of 7 (G7) economic powerhouses, cannot host the Olympics, it is questionable that other Latin American nations could do it – never mind sustain the economic aftermath.

This brings us to the second, and arguably bigger issue of Brazilian failure – a generalization that failure is a characteristic of the region of Latin America. Latin America is not a stable region of the world. This can be seen in a number of ways. The shift to instability in post-Chávez Venezuela, the struggle to find peace with FARC in Colombia, the ever-growing drug trade to funnel substances to the U.S., as well as the waves of immigrants to the U.S. through Mexico. These immigrants come form a number of nations, by the way.

These problems are not limited to ‘one country’ as the media would like to present, they are, though, symptoms of problems in the region, and a number of signs that the other nations of the region are not ready, nor capable, to host an event that Brazil is struggling to deal with.

Despite this, polls suggest that people are terrible at identifying countries in regions. An April poll showed that Americans struggled to find Ukraine on a map, with one in six correctly identifying it.  Many of the dots plotted on the map of the world put it in the ‘region’ of Eastern Europe, and mostly ‘near’ the former Soviet Union, but in places culturally unrelated at all to Ukraine. Mongolia, Siberia, Poland, Germany to name some ‘close’ choices. On the other hand, some Americans labeled Iraq, Vietnam, Greenland, and even Brazil as ‘Ukraine’. This lack of awareness shows the ignorance of many Americans, and is a worrying sign as to how the world would respond to a Brazilian failure.

The Brazilian situation is a mess. The nation is the only one in the region with the financial resources and stability to handle an Olympic event. However, a Brazilian Sochi, or worse, runs the chance of humiliating Latin America as a whole.


Photo Credit: Jorge in Brazil/Flickr

About the Author

Elaine Rita Mendus



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