Favelas and the Olympics: The hypocrisy of anger towards Brazil

There are some strange things going on in Brazil at the moment. Residents of impoverished ‘favelas’ in Brazil have been evicted in the lead up to the Olympics, causing international uproar. It’s hard to say exactly which part of this the uproar is about specifically, but I daresay it’s in relation to the fact that Brazil has spent a lot of money (a taxpayer contribution of $11.6 billion USD) on the Olympics while many are still in poverty.

I have to say it seems a little perverse to me for people to be attacking Brazil for holding the Olympics while there are still people in the favelas since Brazil isn’t the only country with poverty to host the Olympics. Not only that, when Australia held the Olympics in 2000, they too made the choice to spend money on the event rather than spend it on those in need locally and abroad. I would even propose that Australia is about as morally reprehensible for hosting the Olympics as Brazil.

To predict a common response, I don’t think that Brazil is more responsible for Brazilians than Australians (or anyone else) are. To say so must surely mean that we think Brazilians are worth less than Australians. When we have an opportunity to help people, we should do so, regardless of where they are. And yet as a nation, in 2000 Australia decided that $1.7-2.4 billion USD (taxpayer funded proportion) was better spent on games than on helping people. The Against Malaria Foundation didn’t exist at the time, but they are now able to save a live for around $3,000 USD. Consciously or not, we may as well have decided that the Australian Olympics was worth 566,666-800,000 lives. Were the economic benefits and the enjoyment of the public worth so many lives?

And so I don’t think we can really get too upset with Brazil. They made the same choice we did with a bit less visibility. I don’t mean to say that it’s ok that Brazil is largely ignoring their most impoverished at the expense of others. I think it’s terrible. Which is why I had to draw attention to this.

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