Olympic Games successes and failures surround us. Turn on any television news, open any newspaper, and be confronted with story after story about Rio de Janerio. Even if you wanted to, it would be difficult to ignore this spectacle. Gold medals. Bronze medals. Lists of which country has won medals so far. Our heads reel.
Stunning natural beauty surrounds this city. On a hill high above it stands the spectacular statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Australians take pride in their swimmers and other competitors But dig deeper into these Games and find tragic stories. Previous drug misdemeanours throw a suspicious glow over some teams.
A British Judo champion falls to the ground in tears behind a rubbish bin after being knocked out of the events.
Two days ago, knife-wielding crooks robbed a couple of Australian coaches. That’s in spite of the alleged presence of 85,000 security guards. That’s twice as many as in London four years ago.
The major focus of this heavily armed police force, however, is not to protect the tourists. .As Antonio Castillo, writing in Eureka Street this morning, points out,
It is a police force armed to the teeth with a single-minded mission to repress just about anybody that embarrasses the Games, be they the thousands of teachers, doctors, firefighters and public servants demanding unpaid salaries; the poor coming down from the favelas, the beggars, the homeless; or the street sellers and the sex workers that have descended into Rio…
Things have gone very wrong in Rio since the city was awarded the Olympic Games. Financial disaster, corruption and political upheaval have caused havoc.
In preparation for the Games, around 77,000 residents of some the city’s slums have been evicted. Their settlements have been bulldozed. The city has built ten-metre long, three-metre high walls around other slums to hide the poor from visitors. The cost has been US $17.6 million.
Antonio Castillo says,
The Rio 2016 Olympics has already earned a well-deserved label — the jogos da excludad, the games of exclusion. It is a label — carved in banners and street graffiti — that shames a ruling class that got its priorities wrong.
Olympic Games in Perth
In a church hall on the edge of the Central Business District of Perth, Western Australia, the irony of homelessness was overlooked by everyone last Tuesday.
Instead of the usual rehearsal, the Spirit of the Streets Choir celebrated the Rio Olympic Games 2016 with an international concert. It was an opportunity to party. Members had decorated the hall with the flags of competing countries. Flamboyant notice-boards displayed relevant information about those countries.
Singers and other performers, some in national dress, took to the microphone to display individual talents. The only rule was that the songs and dances must represent a country.
The Spirit of the Streets Choir celebrates its tenth anniversary next year. Choirmaster Bernard Carney and vendors of the Big Issue Magazine initiated the choir. Others, often homeless or unemployed, soon joined. Current members represent all walks of life. The name, ‘The Spirit of the Streets Choir’, reflects the diversity of the group.
I would like to boycott the Games in solidarity with the homeless of the world, but the chances that I will manage that are slim.
I’d love to read your comments on these or future Olympic Games.