The nation of Brazil is going to be hosting the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games within the city of Rio de Janeiro. The purpose of the present sample essay provided by Ultius is to discuss this event in greater depth.
The essay will consist of four parts.
- The first part will consider the general history of the Olympic Games themselves.
- The second part will then discuss how and why Brazil was selected to host the 2016 Games.
- The third part will consider the effects that the Games can be expected to have on the economy of Brazil.
- The fourth part will reflect on the recent controversies that have surrounded the upcoming Games and have to some extent even cast doubt on the points of whether the Games will be hosted by Brazil in a successful way.
History of the Olympic Games
To start with, then, it is worth considering the history of the Olympic Games. This is often traced to ancient Greece (which is why the fact that modern Greece hosted the Games in 2004 was seen as having a kind of special significance. As Deford has written:
“The original Olympics had been banned in A.D. 393 by the Roman emperor Theodosius I, but despite the prohibition, Europeans of the Dark and Middle Ages kept playing their games” (paragraph 7).
In this context, the modern Olympic Games could be understood as being a kind of revival of this ancient tradition. This is part of why the Games, while of course having entertainment value for sports fans all across the world, are also often discussed with a tone of dignity and solemnity. In short, the historical legend contributes to the widespread sense that there is something of significance going on here.
The modern Olympic Games first began in the year 1896 in the city of Athens, Greece. Since then, the Games have come to have a great deal of political significance. For example, The Guardian has indicated that,
“the 1936 Olympic Games were intentionally awarded to Germany so the republic could show that it had regained its status among European countries. With the Nazis in power, however, Adolf Hitler used the event as a platform to prove his theory of racial superiority. His attempt failed as African-American Jesse Owens became the hero of the games winning four gold medals” (paragraph 3).
Likewise, the history of the modern Olympic Games have been rife with incidents of protest, boycott, and sabotage. The Games, then, have never been about just sports. Rather, historically considered, they must be understood as a major international event, with the internal dynamics of the game—as well as the question of what nation is hosting the games—often having far-reaching political significance that transcends the domain of just sports or entertainment.
The selection of Brazil
Brazil was given the prerogative to host the Olympic Games this year, and this marks the first time that the Games have come to South America. In fact, this was one of the reasons that Rio de Janeiro won the bid for the Games and beat out other candidates, including the cities of Chicago and Tokyo. As Macur has written:
“The chance to bring the Olympics to a continent that had never hosted the Games worked in Rio’s favor. During its presentation, the bid team showed a graphic of the world and marked all the places that have held an Olympics. South America was glaringly bare” (paragraph 5).
This fact is especially interesting if one also remembers that the new leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is also the first one to emerge from South America. Giving the Olympic Games to Brazil could thus perhaps be understood as part of a broader trend of the world beginning to recognize the significance and value of South America as a continent and as a political and economic force.
Going into the bid, the city of Chicago was considered by many to be a favorite for hosting the 2016 Olympic Games. However, Chicago ended up actually coming in last in the ranking of selections—and that even after President Obama specifically took the effort to endorse his own hometown. One theory for why this happened is that ironically, since Obama was present, many of the early voters may have assumed that Chicago moving forward in the nomination process would have been a sure deal, and thus took their votes to options that they felt to be more in need of them. That is, the assumption may have been that Chicago would be a leading contender no matter what, and that the city was thus in no need of votes. Of course, if everyone believed this, then Chicago would not in fact be a leading contender; rather, Chicago would come in last, as it actually did. This would seem to be a fascinating example of the outcomes of a kind of thinking and logic akin to game theory.
The games and the economy
One of the main reasons that a nation seeks to host the Olympic Games is that according to popular wisdom, hosting the Games can do wonders for the economy of the host nation. This is because in order to host the Games, it would be necessary for the host city to invest heavily in the necessary athletics infrastructure, which could potentially put a lot of people to work; and of course, the presence of the Games would create a huge tourist boom as well. So, when a nation is granted the prerogative of hosting the Games, this is often seen as a sign of the world as a whole investing in that nation in general and in the host nation in particular. The idea is that in the aftermath of hosting the Games, the nation and the city will be on a stronger road to prosperity than it was before the Games.
It is not clear, though, that this popular opinion is in fact supported by the relevant evidence on the subject. As Binyamin Appelbaum of The New York Times has pointed out,
there is strikingly little evidence that such events [as the Olympic Games] increase tourism or draw new investment. Spending lavishly on a short-lived event is, economically speaking, a dubious long-term strategy. Stadiums, which cost a lot and produce minimal economic benefits, are a particularly lousy line of business.
In general, stadiums and related structures are funded by taxpayers, due to the fact that private corporations do not actually want to invest in such projects; and cities generally invest in such projects more for the sake of pride and prestige than in pursuit of any clear economic gain for the city as a whole. This being the case, it is worth doubting the proposition that hosting the 2016 Olympic Games really will make Rio de Janeiro into a more prosperous city.
This is especially the case given that there is already a precedent against which the prospective can be evaluated: Brazil recently hosted the World Cup for the sport of soccer, and there is no indication that this has really been of great help to the economy of Brazil. This is how Appelbaum has put the matter in the following terms:
The flow of tourists to the country, which spent more to host the mega-event than any nation before it, has remained flat from a year earlier since the final match July 13, according to tour operators and an online search engine. Spending by foreign visitors fell 7.4 percent from August through November, compared with a year earlier, central bank data shows. (paragraph 3)
In other words, it would seem to be a fallacy to believe that major sporting events really increase the long-term flow of tourists (and thus money) to the host nation. If the World Cup did not achieve this for Brazil, then it is difficult to see why one should expect the Olympic Games to be able to do it instead.
The controversies surrounding the Olympics
There are several controversies that are surrounding the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Quigley has delineated five of these controversies: the Zika virus, polluted waters, infrastructure, the economy, and political scandal. It is perhaps worth focusing specifically on the problems of scandal and infrastructure here. This is what Jospeph Quigley of CBC has written regarding the scandal:
A congressional committee is considering impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff for allegedly violating budget laws to increase spending during her 2014 re-election campaign. Rousseff and the Brazilian government have also struggled with the state-run oil company Petrobras, which has been mired in a massive corruption scandal. Allegations include political kickbacks, price-fixing, and bribery. (paragraph 12)
Since that article was written, the committee has actually proceeded with the impeachment. Moreover, this scandal is interwoven with Brazil’s preparation for the Olympic Games, insofar as construction firms and the like have been implicated in this collusion. This kind of business is not exactly unusual for South America; but it can clearly become rather embarrassing, within a situation in which the limelight is shining on the nation of Brazil.
Turning to infrastructure, now, Quigley has indicated that:
in the years leading up to the Games, concerns have been raised about whether Rio’s Olympic infrastructure would be ready in time. Those fears were carried over, in part, from when Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Prior to the World Cup, the country fell behind on the construction of soccer stadiums. (paragraph 8)
In other words, real concerns have emerged whether Brazil will even be able to develop all of the material resources and venues necessary for hosting the 2016 Olympic Games in time for the event. This is, naturally, highly disconcerting to stakeholders in the Games, and especially the people who most strongly advocated for Brazil to be granted the prerogative of hosting the Games.
The emerging news from Brazil does not seem to give any real cause for optimism. As Jonathan Watts of The Guardian has suggested, for example:
“Recent headlines only add to the sense of dismay. On Monday, an ombudsman reported that 11 workers have died so far working on Olympic projects . . . Last week, at least two people were killed when a new cycle path collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean just four months after it was opened. Earlier in the month, tourists and shoppers in upmarket shoppers in upmarket Leblon were shocked by grenade explosions and machine gun fire during the latest outbreak of gang violence” (paragraph 5).
These are not exactly signs of a world-class city that could sustainably manage the most important international athletic event on the planet. The tensions described above would seem to be reflective of the tensions animated the nation of Brazil as a whole. On the one hand, Brazil is an emerging global power within the contemporary international scene; but on the other, the nation also has ongoing tendencies to conduct itself as an agent who is not truly worthy of performing on the international stage in a significant way.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of a discussion of the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. The essay has provided a history of the Olympic Games in general, described the selection of Brazil for the 2016 Games, considered the potential economic effects of the Games on Brazil, and finally reflected on the controversies that are surrounding the upcoming Games. Being able to host the Games is a great honor for any nation, and it is a good thing that the Games have now come to a South American nation. One can only hope that Brazil proves itself to be worthy of this honor. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it, and did you know by reading it, you may even become a better writer yourself?
Appelbaum, Binyamin. “Does Hosting the Olympics Actually Pay Off?” New York Times. 5 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 May 2016.
Colitt, Raymond. “Rio Olympics No Help to Brazil Economy Based on World Cup.” Bloomberg. 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 15 May 2016.
Deford, Frank. “The Little-Known History of How the Modern Olympics Got Their Start.” Smithsonian.com. Jul. 2012. Web. 15 May 2016.
Guardian. “Politics and the Olympics.” n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.
Macur, Juliet. “Rio Wins 2016 Olympics in a First for South America.” New York Times. 2 Oct. 2009. Web. 15 May 2016.
Quigley, Joseph. “Rio Olympics: 5 Controversies Looming over the Games.” CBC News. 5 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 May 2016.
Watts, Jonathan. “100 Days until Rio 2016: ‘It Will Be a Great Party, with a Garbage Legacy.” Guardian. 27 Apr. 2016. Web. 15 May 2016.
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