The Olympics’ Game

My nephew, a 27-year-old accomplished engineer who studied in France and has been living in Germany for a few years, is coming home in August for the Rio Olympics. He filed an application to be a volunteer, was accepted, and will work as a driver: A high level professional with international experience will drive some fortunate athletes around a city that counts among the most beautiful in the world.

Like him, thousands of young Brazilians have volunteered, a long-cherished dream they started to pursue when the country was elected to host the Olympic Games, back in 2009.

It was an exciting time in Brazil. The Worker’s Party (PT) has been in office since 2002, riding a wave of economic stability, and our president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, was kind of an icon, a simple working-class man, who, after a lifetime of struggle, has reached the highest position in Brazil — an indisputable hero of the left, recognized all over the world. Obama loved him, called him “my man.” An outstanding victory for a third-world country that had been under the weight of rampant inflation not so long ago.

We have also won the right to host the World Cup, which took place in 2014 and was quite successful, despite many rumors and a political crisis that was already taking its toll.

Since then, the political crisis has escalated, reaching its apex last Thursday, when the Brazilian Senate impeached president Dilma Roussef, who was in her second term after being appointed by Lula as his successor in 2010. The choice was disastrous. Incapable of governing, after being reelected in 2014 under serious suspicions of illegal funding to her campaign, Dilma has been practically absent from the public scene for months, except for her controversial and rather senseless speeches, which turned her into a national mockery target, something the international press might perhaps ignore. Lula, on his part, has been facing serious accusations of misrepresentation, hiding of assets, and traffic of influence.

It is interesting to remember that the whole solution to the 1990s inflation came after another president was impeached in 1992, for the first time in Brazilian history. Impeachment, the pundits say, is an instrument to guarantee democracy in a Republic, when a Prime Minister is not in office. Without this tool, they affirm, democracy could easily degenerate into a dictatorship.

On a personal note, I’ve been through a number of economic crises in Brazil, and I was hit hard. Back in the 1980s, I was a successful furniture designer, struggling against 10 percent inflation. Per week. In 1990, shortly after Fernando Collor — the president who was later impeached — took office, I was involved in curating a big cultural center in Rio de Janeiro, which existed exclusively on government funding, and all the cultural programs were cancelled overnight.

I also “rode the wave” of stability and progress that followed the successful “Real Plan” — which instituted the real, a stable currency that finally solved our problems. Albeit temporarily, since today Brazil is facing a deep recession. This time, due mainly to corruption and bad administration: Brazil does not make your life easy. So this new moment found me willing to work as a writer and an editor. I was an e-book pioneer, the first Brazilian publisher to publish an e-book in Portuguese on Amazon, long before other publishers or other online bookstores decided to risk the new market, long before Amazon decided to open an online store in Brazil. With a little help from yours truly, I like to think.

That’s where the present crisis caught me. I had a booming business, entirely operated through the Internet; a catalog with more than 200 titles; and a beautiful house my American husband and I designed and built in an Atlantic Forest paradise outside of Rio. I was deeply disturbed. Not even the World Cup could cheer me up. All I could think about was selling our house for a profit and moving to the United States. I could not imagine having to start it all over again, due once again to government incompetence and dishonesty.

Now that president Dilma has been impeached, the international media has decided to accept her personal version of the facts, according to which she was the victim of a “coup.” Yes, there may not be a direct accusation of corruption against her, nor direct proof of any crime. But, curiously enough, over the years Mrs. Roussef was in positions of power that coincided in time and place to crimes that were committed, as, for example, back in 2007, when the corruption scheme in Petrobras started to escalate through the Pasadena scandal. Mrs. Roussef, although affirming there was nothing against her “unblemished reputation,” was the head of the Petrobras council and supposed to give her approval to any major enterprise the company decided to invest in.

At any rate, it is not my intention in this article to list a myriad of reasons why Brazil was right to impeach her, or to emphasize that everything was done 100% according to the rules and complying with democracy, respecting our institutions, and the separation of powers. Not to mention the whole process reflected the will of a vast majority of the people, including many who had actually voted for her in 2014.

I have to confess I wasn’t surprised when I read this week a discussion in The New York Times suggesting Brazil should postpone or even cancel the upcoming Olympics. For reasons I fail to understand, a denigrating campaign was launched a few months ago by our own government, during the Zika virus crisis. Which, by the way, was mainly caused by governmental incompetence in controlling the mosquitoes’ proliferation through simple, but effective measures, like we have done ever since we first heard of dengue fever, which is transmitted by the same mosquito. Immediately there was an uproar in favor of cancelling the games, ignoring the fact the during the winter (in the Southern Hemisphere, winter equals our summer) the mosquitoes’ population is normally diminished, and thus, contamination becomes highly unlikely.

Brazil has been accused of being good at “covering up the damage and showing its artificial face.” This is not entirely true. Although our Olympic bid has been quite ambitious, work has been underway, even in the midst of difficult and troubled times. The crisis persists, but we are optimistic. We are already on the other side of one of the biggest challenges the country has faced in my lifetime, and there is plenty of disposition to show our brightest side. A fair amount of problems still lay ahead, but at least we no longer have the sensation that the (pity) party in office is doing whatever it can to keep their power intact, no matter the cost, backed up by a strong corruption scheme. Which, by the way, is being taken proper care of by the Federal Police.

Today, Brazil and the Brazilian people should be able to count on international support and all possible help to make these Olympic Games succeed. Many young, accomplished people, like my nephew, are ready to go. Rio is a beautiful city and it’s getting ready for the event, our best and fastest bet to uplift our national spirit, so badly damaged in recent times. A media campaign against this important project would hurt us right now beyond any measure.

The truth is, we Brazilians are very proud of ourselves and of what we have accomplished in order to win our country back, with its democratic structures intact. Come share this feeling with us in August.

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.