THE PARTY IS OVER AND RIO IS THE WINNER BUT THE FAVELAS THE LOSER

The stadium is now cleared of spectators. Volunteers and stadium staff are earnestly preparing to strike the big set. Some are tired, others are sitting restlessly trying to catch a breath after the amazing show.
Rehearsals have been done over and over again, starting over a year ago. The glitches, the demotivated that did not attend rehearsals and the numerous calls to do it “once again” all are now indelible memories of the journey getting to where the team wanted to be. It was, in fact, the best part of the Olympics, the preparation. 
It would not have been a true Brazil Olympics without the brand Brazil is known for, Carnival. The opening ceremonies did its due homage to the birth of this great country, but the closing was authentic Brazil and the performances were all testament to this gospel. 

The show could be easily placed next to the other best in show, China, as the most memorable. The one thing Brazil wanted the world to take aŵay is this – problems there are but the land is green, the sun continues to shine and the people know how to throw a party. Brazil pulled off sports largest party, the 31st Olympiad. 

Months, weeks even days before the opening the media spun its web of doubt. Infested water, a mosquito named Zika and of course the unloved cousin named crime, were reported to threaten the lives of those planning to attend. Few athletes took the bait and refused to attend. Countries brought additional luggage purely packed with repellents and water, enough to give every team member and every family in the favela, packets to last a month. 

Brazil was in fact dusted by the world media as the country plagued by pestilence and if you go, you do so on your own peril. Brazil was humiliated even before the first plane landed with their guests. The political strife did not help either as their President was facing a political earthquake she is hoping to survive. 

The process to creating this ubiquitous event of glitz and glamour was bumpy. In cases where the State needed land it was the residents of the favela that paid the price. A country daunted by millions of its people living below an already low poverty line, basic services seemed to be curtailed in favor of satisfying the wealthy sponsors and the many affluent citizens of Rio. Choices made were not equitable and people of the favela excercised the only power they have, the power to protest. 

It sent a message loud and clear as delays and sabotage prevented time schedules of spaces for the Olympics to be completed on time. Brazil pressed on, facing their realities and a deadline as the World was coming. A visibly shaking President of the Organizing Committee Carlos Nuzman was a happy man. In his closing speech, he declared the games would be one the people of Brazil can look back and be proud of for generations to come.
In a way, I think he is correct. The games did not lack any excitement or drama. There were many highs and as expected many lows. There were 27 World records and 90 Olympic records at the Rio 2016 games. 
The outstanding athletes Phelps of the US, Farah of the UK and Bolt of Jamaica were the stars of the games. There were other memorable moments as well too numerous to mention but for Brazil the sweet moment was the revenge victory over rival Germany for the gold medal in the beloved sport Soccer. Karma was so sweet an ale on the lips of the Brazilians. 

The lows were as low as they could go and the three that will be etched in the history of Rio2016 Games were the public refusal of the Israeli athlete to shake the hand of his Palestinian competitor and the blond athlete from the US that claimed he and fellow athletes were robbed at gun point when upon investigating the incident , was determined to be false, very false.


The other low point was the visible empty seats in the massive 70,000 seat Olympic stadium except for when Bolt was attending and the 80,000 Maracana stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. No director wants to see empty seats. It says a lot about the planning of the event. If I were the director, I would have filled those seats with the people next door the Maracana. The favelas had thousands of people standing above their shanty roof top houses, that would have given an arm even a leg to be in the stadium. I think the organizers and the government lost an opportunity there. 

Every event has its drama and the event ghosts are always around determined to distract and displace every possible decision taken. Brazil faced their truth and stood back up on their feet 1 million times as much as they were knocked down 1 million times. For this Brazil can be proud. Nothing is more satisfying than to do something that your haters say you cannot.

I think Brazil had the last laugh. They can laugh at the doubters and be assured that the City of Rio has been tested and passed every test imaginable. The final test for Rio and Brazil is the test of conversion and innovation of the many facilities to serve its people. 
This will be its hardest challenge. I hope they face it with the same resolve as they did to open the games. Fairy tales they are but the land is green, the sun shines and the people not only can throw a party, they now have facilities that will move their people and country from being a great Brazil to an even greater Brazil. 
(C) 2016. Kwesi. All Rights Reserved. 

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