With Games gone, hard reality sets in for Brazil

Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:41pm EDT
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Until now, people in Brazil had something to look forward to.

Despite deep recession, a presidential impeachment, and a corruption scandal ensnaring the political and corporate elite, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro shone on the horizon like a sliver of light from a sunnier era, when Brazil appeared to have its act together.

But that was extinguished with the Olympic flame at Sunday's rainy closing ceremony. Now, Latin America's largest country, its dreams shattered, once again finds itself falling far short of its economic and political potential.

"There is nothing left to disguise the hard reality that we now face," says Roberto Romano, a philosopher, author and commentator on Brazilian society. "This grandiose idea that many believed in until recently has nothing to support it anymore."

The idea was that Brazil, after nearly a decade of economic growth that lifted more than 30 million people out of poverty, was finally punching its weight. The Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, which Brazil also hosted, were meant to showcase its arrival on the world stage.

Instead, Brazil's economy, and the popular leftist government that presided over its boom years, began to unravel, as if on cue for the big events. The spectacles played out in spite of the economy and politics, not because of them.

For sure, the Games had their fair share of hiccups, from green water in the diving pool to a camera that plunged from a broken guide wire, to an international scandal that erupted over an American swimmer's lies about an armed holdup.

And questions will linger for years about alleged corruption in contracts for infrastructure and venue construction, not to mention the ultimate price tag for the Games, expected to exceed the already inflated official figure of at least $12 billion.   Continued...

People stand in the rain while watching the 2016 Rio Olympics closing ceremony on a large screen in Rio de Janeiro August 21, 2016.  REUTERS/Pilar Olivares