Why did the 100+ members of the International Olympic Committee blow off Chicago, Tokyo, and Madrid in favor of Rio de Janeiro?
We think we know the answers.
They nixed Chicago because they were mad at the USOC, didn’t much like Stephanie Streeter, and thought that Obama should have spent a week in Copenhagen buttering them up instead of a mere five hours.
Madrid didn’t make the cut because Barcelona got the Games during 1992, and former IOC boss Juan Antonio Samaranch no longer controls his once-loyal minions on the Committee.
And Tokyo? Beijing just hosted the games-and Japan and China may be regarded by the IOC as essentially the same country, just as Canada and the U.S. are often lumped together.
So that left Rio. And although Rio may have a very small, very insignificant crime problem, it’s one of the most beautiful and glamorous cities in the world, isn’t it? No terrorists, no Al Qaeda, just Copacabana beach, Carnavale and sleek, beautiful friendly people in skimpy clothes, right?
In fact, as Jon Lee Anderson reports in this week’s New Yorker, Rio de Janeiro more closely resembles Baghdad, Mogadishu, or Port Au Prince than it does any of its three erstwhile competitors.
Here are some statistics.
Of Rio’s 14 million inhabitants, three million live in one of nearly a thousand favelas, shantytowns which receive few municipal services, and are ruled by gangster-headed militias. Thanks to an extensive black market in guns, the militias are well-armed, with arsenals that include hand grenades, assault rifles, machine guns, and anti-aircraft weapons. The militias deal drugs, collect taxes, and impose their version of law and order upon their hapless subjects.
Rio leads the world’s cities in “violent intentional deaths,” with five thousand murders last year. The category doesn’t include “rape resulting in death,” nor “riots resulting in death.” 22 cops were killed, and 1,188 cariocas met their maker at the hands of the police. Anderson quotes Alfredo Sirkis, a prominent local elected official in Rio, who told him that “Rio is one of the very few cities in the world where you have whole areas controlled by armed forces that are not of the state.”
The police are widely perceived as just another militia, albeit more brutal and less well-armed than their unofficial counterparts. Nowadays, the dividing lines between the favelas and what we think of as Rio, the affluent Zona Sul, are more and more fluid. The city becomes more violent and more dangerous every year-so the IOC had better hope that the Brazilian government finds a way to seal off most of the city from the Olympics.
Let’s see: a city controlled by armed, disaffected militias headed by youthful nihilists who, as Anderson notes, routinely deal with enemies by torturing them, dismembering the bodies, and leaving the remains on the street-perfect for the Olympics, right? No way they’d make common cause with Al Qaeda … we all know that terrorists hate the Samba!