Balancing the Olympic Torch

By Kelly Boudwin, Minerva Strategies –

It is exactly 41 days, 23 hours, 48 minutes, and 17 seconds until the 2016 summer Olympics commence in Brazil. And it’s not just the athletes racing against the clock to prepare; the host country is balancing the added pressures of the Olympic torch amongst the issues of its country.

If you’ve been keeping up with current events, you know that Brazil is definitely not receiving a gold medal in politics − or economics, disease control, and financial health. Political turmoil has ensued since President Dilma Rousseff was suspended in May. A $20 billion deficit has led to multiple rounds of spending cuts and is now negatively impacting schools, health care facilities, and security. The 32 Olympic venues in Rio have yet to be completed. Top that off with the emergence of the Zika virus, and one can bet that many in Brazil are regretting their country’s winning Olympic bid. Yet the clock keeps ticking.

While we can’t blame Brazil’s problems on the Olympics, we can’t ignore that the games are a major financial burden perpetuating existing issues in Brazil. The Olympic budget is dwindling and will most likely run out, so the government offered a check to get the job done – subject line reading ‘bailout’. It seems that the to-do list of a mega event takes priority on the agenda over pre-exacerbated public services and infrastructure. Frame this with a health crisis and a financial deficit and you have a state of emergency. Brazil gleefully accepted the Olympic Torch seven years ago; today it’s clear the host can’t do it all.

Time is not in Brazil’s favor, but the country will cross the finish line. With the roughly $10 billion budget and recent bailout, the games will go on and the country will dress up their haphazard construction of arenas and facilities with lights and confetti. Most likely the majority of the tourists will be too psyched about the games – and applying DEET – to notice that the Guanabara Bay is still swampy, teachers and doctors are striking, and that the senate is voting ‘yay or nay’ to continue Rousseff’s democratic term.

After the torch is passed to Japan for the 2020 summer Olympics and the crowds disperse, Rio will be left in the same turmoil, if not more, from the game’s financial stress.

Will Japan be able to balance the torch and run a successful country? I can’t help but wonder: If this global event continues without a more socially conscious focus, how long until there is no one willing to carry the torch for risk of getting burned?