Rio de Janeiro Declares Financial Emergency Ahead of OlympicsJuly 6, 2016 in 2016 Summer Olympics - Security Update
06The governor of Rio de Janeiro has declared a state of financial emergency ahead of the Olympics, which are set to begin in August, stating that emergency measures are needed in order to avoid “a total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management.”
The acting governor, Francisco Dornelles, has classified the situation in the Official Gazette as a “financial calamity” that could prevent “the fulfilment of the obligations as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016.” This however is in part a political tactics as by declaring a state of financial emergency, the government is able to borrow funds without approval from the state legislature. The interim president, Michel Temer, has reportedly already agreed to disburse federal funds to cover Rio’s shortfall and to ensure that the Olympics go ahead as planned.
The impact however remains to be seen. Most of the Olympic projects are funded by private companies or Rio City, which is in a stronger financial position, as opposed to Rio state. With the exception of the velodrome, the main sporting venues are either already completed or are on schedule for completion. However Rio State is responsible for the MetroRio extension, which is already very late and which is now due for completion just days before the start of the Games, when it will be needed to alleviate the usually dire traffic to Bara de Tijuca, the site of the athletes village and Olympic park. Rio State was also supposed to clean up the sewage and other pollution in Guanabara Bay, which will stage the yachting events. However officials have stated that this is now impossible due to a lack of funds, which effectively means that Olympic sailors may have to dodge plastic bags, human excrement and other waste. Also of great concern for the 500,000 visitors who are expected for th Games is the cut in the public security budget, which has added to the problems faced by the favela “pacification” programme and contributed to a resurgence in violent crime. I also comes amidst warnings that terrorists could target the event.
City Mayor Eduardo Paes however has insisted that the state of emergency would in no way impede Rio’s ability to meet its Olympic commitments and stage an “exceptional Games.” He stressed that the bulk of the bill for the event was being paid by the municipality and not the state, adding, “the city of Rio is in good shape financially…Even in a time of crisis, we keep pushing. We inaugurate things almost every week.”
The plea for additional funds, which comes 49 days before the official start of the games, is an embarrassment for the host of South America’s first Games and adds to a long list of issues, which include the impeachment of the president, the deepest recession in decades, the biggest corruption scandal in memory, the Zika virus epidemic and a wave of strikes and occupations of government buildings.
Analysts have reported that Brazil’s economy this year is expected to shrink by about 4%. This is due to weak commodity prices, low demand from China, political paralysis and the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption investigation, which forced the suspension of many construction contracts and which led to the arrest of dozens of senior executives. Rio de Janeiro has particularly been hard hit because it is the headquarters of the state-run oil company Petrobas, which is at the centre of the investigation. Faced by falling tax revenues, the state government has slashed health, police and education budgets. Teachers and doctors have faced lengthy delays in receiving their salaries, which has prompted strikes and occupations of schools and hospitals.
WHO To Meet Over Zika Concerns as Rio Olympic Games ApproachJune 20, 2016 in 2016 Summer Olympics - Security Update
A World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman has disclosed that the WHO’s Emergency Committee on Zika will meet in the coming weeks in order to evaluate the risks tied to going on with the Olympic Games in Brazil in August. The meeting comes as the debate grows over the safety of holding the Olympics in the South American country amidst the ongoing Zika virus outbreak.
According to WHO spokesman Nyka Alexander, “the Emergency Committee meeting will consider the situation in Brazil, including the question of the Olympics,” noting that while the WHO will make risk assessments of a public health issue, it will ultimately be up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide on holding the event in Rio de Janeiro, which is due to begin on 5 August. A spokesman for Rio 2016 has disclosed that officials are continuing to follow WHO recommendations on Zika.
Dr David Heymann, chairman of the WHO committee of independent experts, has disclosed that postponing the Rio Olympics over fears that it could speed the spread of the Zika virus would give a “false” sense of security because travellers are constantly going in and out of Brazil. WHO experts have also indicated that because it will be winter in Brazil when the Olympics begin, mosquitoes that carry the virus will be less abundant.
At the beginning of June, a public letter was signed by 150 public health experts and scientists calling for the Olympics to be delayed or moved over concerns that the Games could speed up the global spread of the Zika virus. However top US officials agreed with WHO experts that Zika did not pose enough of a risk to postpone or move the Olympics. According to Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, travel to the Olympics would represent less than one quarter of 1 percent of all travel to Zika-affected areas, adding that the risk was low except for pregnant women.
While athletes will have to make their own decisions as to whether to risk Zika for the potential globally of Olympic gold, some athletes have already withdrawn from the competition.