Why does one of Brazil’s soccer legends want people to stay away from his country?
In August, Rio de Janeiro will host South America’s first-ever Olympic Games. But former FIFA World Cup winner Rivaldo Ferreira doesn’t want tourists to visit the city in the wake of endemic violence.
He stated on his social media accounts “things are getting uglier here every day,” citing the case of a 17-year-old who was recently killed in a shootout.
Brazil has some of the highest violent crime rates in the world. Intentional deaths in the South American nation reached a record high in 2014 — more than 58,000 — and the numbers are expected to increase this year.
With the multi-billion dollar mega sports event less than three months away, Rivaldo’s warning spells trouble for Brazilian leaders, who have been trying to showcase their country a safe spot for tourists.
"Rio is 98 percent ready," Brazil's Sports Minister Ricardo Leyser told CBC Sports in April. "[No] country [is] 100 percent ready before the Games. But all the infrastructure...it's OK. Now we are working on the transition to [managing] operations. So moving from the structure of the venues and going to safety, security, airport, weather forecast, all these things that are important for the operation."
Despite repeated assurances, though, violence or security aren't the only problems prior to the Olympics.
One of the most pressing problems facing Brazil currently is the outbreak of Zika virus, which reportedly causes birth defects in infants.
In April, the country was billed “Zika’s ground zero” after hitting 4,000 suspected Zika-related cases of birth defects. There’s been a lot of debate if the Summer Olympics should be relocated because of the health emergency. Several doctors have also warned the games, if held in Rio, could yield negative consequences across the world.
In addition to health and security threats, Brazil is also going through a severe political crisis. After the state-owned oil group Petrobras reported gross debts of more than $135 billion, making it the world’s most indebted oil producer, a major scandal blew up in mid-2014 involving high-profile politicians, including President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva.
Tensions flared up in 2015 against sluggish economy and rising prices and yet again this year in February as tens of thousands of people again took to the streets, demanding Rousseff’s impeachment.
The turmoil — as of the time of writing this story — continues.
Weak infrastructure ahead of the Olympics also remains a huge point of concern. In April, a newly built bike path bridge connecting two Brazilian beach towns collapsed into the sea. At least two people died in the collapse.
If history is any indication, the games will be held in Rio despite all the pressing problems.
More or less similar issues arose before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. But organizers went on with the event nevertheless.