Looking forward to the Summer (in 2016)
On deck in the global sports spotlight: Rio de Janiero, Brazil, which will put on the 2016 Summer Games. The News-Gazette asked Mary Paula Arends-Kuenning, director of the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies at the University of Illinois, to give us three things people ought to know about the first South American country to host the Olympics.
1. To the locals, it's No. 2 among the biggest sports spectacles Brazil will host — behind this summer's World Cup.
Arends-Kuenning says: "So, Rio will have practice in hosting a huge world event. For most people in the world, the World Cup is a bigger deal than the Olympics. This is certainly true in Brazil. In a few months, we'll see how prepared Rio is for a big global sporting event."
2. Plan on hearing plenty about protests the next two years.
Arends-Kuenning says: "There is growing dissatisfaction with the Brazilian government's spending on stadia and infrastructure for the World Cup and the Olympics. Last summer, there were protests in the streets of Rio, Sao Paulo and other cities. The complaints were many, but one common theme was the massive spending on the World Cup and the Olympics, while public health and education services languish."
3. Brazil has the world's seventh-largest economy — one spot ahead of Russia.
Arends-Kuenning says: "In the last 15 years, it has made remarkable progress in lowering poverty and inequality, with 30 million people exiting poverty and entering the middle class. Wages grew for the lower income people, and the Brazilian government has an extensive social welfare program, Bolsa Familia."