The Rio Summer Olympics do not compare favorably to the Sochi Winter Olympics and the Brazilian World Cup in 2014. This is a damning indictment given that Russia's Sochi games were colossally corrupt. Sochi clearly illustrated that Putin's promise of green games was little more than a farce and an Olympic sized example of greenwashing.
There have been protests against the Rio games across Brazil but they are much smaller than the protests against the World Cup in 2014. At that time there was a popular outcry against an expensive sporting event while the country struggled with widespread poverty and inequality. The same criticisms are warranted in the case of the Rio games.
In 2014 the FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil. Critics asked how the country can stage such events when the people of Brazil see none of the multi-million dollar benefits. FIFA alone netted as much as $5 billion from the World Cup in 2014. The city of Porto Alegre saw tax exemptions connected to World Cup construction amounting to more than $12 million US. Many companies also profited handsomely from the even but the average citizen, particularly the poor got nothing.
Despite these criticisms the 2014 World Cup was arguably a greener event than the Rio Olympics. Environmental problems associated with the 2014 World Cup included things like massive energy use and unsustainable road transportation. However, the event also included a raft of sustainability focused efforts including carbon credits, green stadiums, and sustainability training for stadium staff.
More recent protests in Brazil have focused on what is being called a right wing coup. For years Brazilians have been protesting corruption and calling for workers rights. Rio 2016 proves that the government is not listening to its people. It may be more accurate to say that the economic crisis, corruption and political dysfunction preclude sustainability in Brazil.
In an attempt to draw attention to an increase in Rio's fatal police shoots, the Brazil chapter of rights group Amnesty International displayed 40 body bags in front of the office of the local Olympic Organizing Committee.
In the lead up to the games Amnesty International raised concerns around the increased risk of human rights violations in the context of Rio 2016 Olympics. Amnesty points to the death toll before the 2014 World Cup and the 2007 PanAmerican games, saying that 2,600 people have been killed by police in Rio since the bid to host the games in 2009. In the month of May alone, the policed killed 40 people, more than double the number for the same period in 2015.
Defending the environment or drawing attention to health issues is especially dangerous in Brazil. In 2012 two environmentalists were murdered for defending the Amazon. These are but two of dozens of environmentalists who have been killed in the country. According to a Global Witness report titled, On Dangerous Ground, Brazil is the most lethal country in the world for environmental champions. The country has the highest murder rate for environmental activists in the world with 50 confirmed murders last year and more than 200 between 2010 and 2015.
In this context Rio's Olympics are even worse than the Sochi. Ahead of the Sochi games, Russia imprisoned environmental activists, in Brazil activists get two bullets in the chest and one in the head.
The Sochi Olympics were steeped in corruption and mired in greenwash. However this is to be expected from one of the most corrupt demagogues in one of the most unsustainable countries in the world. What makes the games in Brazil so disappointing is that the country appeared to be moving forward on environmental and social issues.
Rio 2016: More Green Promises More Green Lies