Somerset Times

The Rio 2016 Olympics – Not All Fun and Games

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 1,
Term Three, 2016

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The 2016 Olympics are already quickly approaching us and for many around the globe, it’s an exciting time to be proud and cheer on our respective home country. Above all, there is always a sense of unity at the Olympics, where race, age, wealth and sexual orientation do not matter.

All that matters is that we compete in good spirit and celebrate the fierce competitiveness of human beings. Despite all of this, it seems that the hosts of this year’s Olympic Games may not find it easy to see the Olympics in such a light.

Kenta Arichi and Catherine Gerrard, Academic Captains, with Dr Michael Brohier, Deputy Headmaster

The development of many new sporting venues just for the Rio 2016 Olympics have been running behind schedule. As a result, there is more incentive for the government to spend more in order to prevent a global embarrassment. Such spending costs the taxpayers of Rio, but beyond the costs to the people of the host-country, it seems to be far more sinister for those living in the city’s informal settlements known as ‘favelas’. Many of Rio’s favela communities have received forced evictions to clear out space next to the main Olympic park to hide it from the public eye. Many other favela residents have also been evicted to make way for transport to be used during the Olympics.

As well as this, changes have been made to the regular bus services which has cut numerous lines. These cuts have negatively affected urban mobility for many living in the northern area of Rio, a poorer area of the city. Furthermore, despite these cuts, the prices have actually risen with no noticeable improvement to service either. Hence, making the transport unaffordable for those living on the edge. In essence, the Olympics, a symbol of unity, has inadvertently created a larger divide between the rich and the poor. What’s worse is that the city was already infamous for its staggering levels of inequality.

As if inequality wasn’t bad enough, it appears that the Olympic spending for Rio has taken precedence over public health. The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has its epicentre in Brazil has been declared a public health emergency by the WHO. While, the affected area(s) are about 2,000km away from Rio, it’s still a crisis. But, that being said, in December of last year there wasn’t enough money in public health to keep hospitals open. Where was the money? Being poured into the Olympics. What makes this situation worse, is that had the Zika virus been closer to Rio, and pose a possible threat to athletes and the reputation of Rio, there may have been more of a considerable effort to prevent this.

While the Olympics are meant to be a reminder of the unity of the human race, let us not allow the responsible institutions brush these facts under the rug. Perhaps there should be a more thorough criteria in allowing countries to host the Olympics in order to prevent this happening to other countries. Given our world today where a huge majority fear immigrants and terrorists, let us not forget the original goals of the Olympics: To celebrate unity and diversity while competing amongst each other with upmost respect.

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