Please find the original text below, submitted in Portuguese.
In the next few years, Brazil will host two major world sporting events, the World Cup (2014) and the Olympic Games (2016).
Beyond putting the country on the international stage and increasing the number of tourists and investors, the big question is what will be the real impact of these events in improving the living conditions of the majority of Brazilians. With this in mind, the Special Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality (SEPPIR), with support from the U.S. Consulate in Brazil, organized a series of events inviting representatives of social organizations and governments to look at how best to include Afro-Brazilians in the preparations for the games.
One of the concerns of SEPPIR, a ministry of the federal government, is the fact that the Afro-Brazilian population has historically not been a part of the process of economic inclusion—the result of more than 300 years of slavery and a lack of economic inclusion policies. Social movement activists point out that it is very likely that most Afro-Brazilians will not benefit from the opportunities of the games, even though Brazil is attracting significant public and private investments.
This Saturday the eyes of much of the hemisphere will be on
In soccer terms, the game is important because a victory by the
A valid case can be made that the game should be played at a Central American venue outside Honduras (or even in the United States: to be honest, the last time Honduras played in the United States it was a virtual home game for los catrachos given the number of national supporters in the stands). Be that as it may, the key now will first and foremost be to ensure the safety of the players and spectators. It will also be to ensure that the excitement surrounding the game remains self-contained. As the brief "soccer war" between Honduras and El Salvador showed in 1969 (also in a World Cup qualifier prior to the 1970 World Cup finals held in Mexico City), soccer games have the potential to ignite passions that simmer over other issues, causing an eruption of popular emotion that could potentially get out of control if not adequately contained. Anyone seeking to stir things up in Honduras—from within or without—might-well attempt to use the passions surrounding the game as a way to provoke an over-reaction by the security forces, which will quickly be condemned by the international community and give the de facto Micheletti government yet another black eye while deepening the crisis further.
The announcement today by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Rio de Janeiro will be the host of the 2016 Olympic Summer Games is a fitting acknowledgement by the international community that Brazil’s time has arrived. It is also a bouquet to the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and an effort to get the Games—finally—to South America. Beating out Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago (my hometown), the Rio selection was immediately hailed by many across the region and offers the opportunity for Brazil to showcase itself to the world, much as China used the 2008 Games in Beijing.
The Olympics are part of a strategic approach to sport that Brazil has recently employed as yet another means to raise its international profile. Starting with the XV Pan American Games in 2007, also held in Rio, and the upcoming World Cup soccer championship in 2014, the Olympics offer Brazil the crown jewel of international sport, a trifecta only accomplished once before over such a short period of time (the United States also achieved the feat, with the Pan Am Games held in Indianapolis in 1987, the World Cup in 1994 and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics).*
Much will be made of the fact that President Lula’s star power apparently eclipsed that of President Obama, as well as the new Prime Minister of Japan and the King of Spain and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, all of whom dutifully traveled to Copenhagen to implore the IOC to select their respective bid cities. And, indeed, President Obama’s riding in on Air Force One to rescue the bid for Chicago was a high-risk strategy that, had it not been his own home town, the White House might very well have chosen to bypass.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.