When the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics lit up the night sky in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5, thousands of Brazilians watched from the rooftops of the city’s surrounding slums, called favelas.
Brazil’s reputation has been marred by its ongoing political crisis, economic disparity and the spread of the Zika virus — and Olympic athletes haven’t been shy about the country’s shortfalls in its Olympic Village either.
The Cost of the Rio Olympics 2016
Every Olympics between 1968 and 2012 has gone over budget, according to a paper from the University of Oxford Saïd Business School — and the 2016 Summer Games are no exception.
The original projected cost of hosting the games was over $14 billion, but that number later skyrocketed to $20 billion, according to The New York Times. A 10-mile rail line constructed to cut travel time between hotels and Barra de Tijuca, where the Olympic Park sits, was estimated to cost $1.6 billion. Its cost doubled to $2.8 billion, and the rail line only opened days before the Olympics started.
Construction of the Olympic and Paralympic Village alone cost roughly $929.7 million, according to estimates from the Olympic Public Authority adjusted for the U.S. dollar. The venues and common areas for Barra’s Olympic Park cost $538.4 million, and Barra’s Olympic Park sports facilities cost $262.2 million.
Despite heavy expenditures, The New York Times reports Rio won’t be making its money back. The city is expected to bring in about $4.5 billion in revenue by optimistic estimates.
Brazil Protests Over Rio Olympics
Economic disparity and a political crisis has led to numerous protests in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. Just before the start of the opening ceremonies, police clashed with protesters, who rallied against what they called the “Exclusion Games.” The protests were just the latest in a series of similar rallies that criticize the number of resources dedicated to the Olympics.
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) August 5, 2016
Other Brazilians protested the construction for the Olympic Games as it upended an estimated 20,000 families since planning began in 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported. Even law enforcement held a protest before the Olympics over lack of pay.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose to 11.3 percent in the three months to June 2016, up from 9.5 percent in January, according to Trading Economics. And while opening ceremony tickets to the Olympics cost tourists between $63 and $1,400, AP estimates minimum wage workers in Brazil earn around $55 per week, pricing many locals out of the Olympic Games.
Complaints Over Rio’s Athletes Village
Olympic athletes have their own complaints in Rio, many over living conditions — and mixed reports of water pollution in Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing, have surfaced.
Competitors have complained about poor housing quarters in Rio’s Athletes Village — including blocked toilets, collapsed sinks, electrical outages and flooding showers. The hashtag #RioProblems has been used by athletes and media personnel to voice complaints.
For instance, the Jamaica Gleaner, a Jamaican news source, tweeted a video showing unfinished quarters for the Jamaican team in Rio.
— Jamaica Gleaner (@JamaicaGleaner) August 4, 2016
The Zika Virus at the Rio Olympics
Coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics has been followed by mention of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects in pregnant women who become infected. Some Olympic athletes even skipped the games altogether over concerns of Zika.
Health officials are worried about the virus’ potential to become a global menace, as 500,000 tourists flock to Rio and then disperse back to their home countries across the globe.
The World Bank Group estimates the virus will cost Brazil $130 million, and the worldwide cost could be up to $3.48 billion. However, Mother Jones, a nonprofit news organization, says the country has spent about $780 million thus far on the virus.
While hosting the Olympic Games, Brazil will remain front page news as athletes like Michael Phelps pick up gold medals. The international games promise to be one of the most storied and celebrated athletic competitions in the world, albeit controversial.