Olympic hysteria….and evictions in Rio

9 Aug

It’s strange watching the London Olympics from across the ocean. It feels like looking through the window at a party full of friends, everybody is doing a dance move that they find hilarious but from the outside it looks faintly ridiculous. I was particularly overwhelmed by the rush of Olympic hysteria  on Saturday. Scrolling down, every facebook update seemed to include something along the lines of  ‘what a great day to British’, ‘Jessica Ennis is amazing’ or ‘Go Britain’. I’ve caught snatches of the Olympics, passing bars in the street, on the internet or catching up on the news on the BBC. But there are no excited conversations with friends or family about how well the teams are doing, no discussing somebodies visit to the Plympic park. So I’ve watched from afar, slightly in wonder at the overwhelming positivity and enthusiasm being projected across the airwaves as Great Britain’s gold tally rises. Of course the athletes have pushed themselves and worked hard and succeeded. But I can’t forget the huge amount of investment that has gone into supporting them, giving people  the best science, the best trainers and psychologists, the best equipment and the time to train. This Olympics is surely an example of the results of investing time and money when we want to succeed. We musn’t forget the things that we haven’t wanted to succeed at this year, the areas we haven’t supported for these 14 days of Olympic triumph, the museums, the arts centres, the smaller regional communities.

I have wondered where this enthusiasm that seems to have gripped the nation is rooted. Is it a resurging nationalism, that this small island can win against the rising economic giants despite our waning military and political influence? Or is it a smugness that really Britain does things best, organised but not controlled, with energy and enthusiasm but without chaos? Is it the simplicity of these sporting contests, individuals from each country fighting out in specific controlled events to win, so much easier to comprehend than the bewildering world events around us? I know going to the BBC news front page I’ve found it easier to click on the Olympics updates than to read about the fighting in Syria with its complex regional politics and where we seem to be helpless to stop the killing. Or is it just that Britain is doing really well? Could we not support these athletes even if they worked as hard but didn’t win? Perhaps we may have to accept that reality in the future as the funding following the Olympics dwindles.

But whatever you think about the Olympics, please spare a moment for the people of Rio de Janeiro. Just a month ago the first foundation stone was lain, however, the residents of a beautiful and peaceful favela nearest the Olympic site (Vila Autodromo) are having to fight eviction. Despite the community having been granted a 99 year lease for the land in 1994 the government now wants to permanently move 4000 residents. The residents are concerned that this is primarily due to commerical interests, with 75 % of the Olympic park being offered for real estate developer after 2016, and is despite the community remaining in the original Olympic plans. Keep an eye on RioonWatch.org if you want to follow the impact of theOolympics on Rio’s communities.




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