To Understand What's Happening in Brazil, Read the Message Spray-Painted on This Train Car


The news: We're less than two months away from World Cup 2014, and things couldn't be going worse.

Where to begin? It's usually a bad sign when the organization sponsoring the event is publicly derided on train cars throughout the country:

But that's just the beginning of Brazil's problems. Vice President John Coates of the International Olympic Committee recently called Rio de Janeiro's preparations for the 2016 Olympics – which it's also hosting – "the worst" he has ever seen.

"The IOC has formed a special task force to try to speed up preparations," he said in a statement. "But the situation is critical on the ground."

Ouch. According to his report, construction on many of the venues is severely behind schedule. Infrastructural delays and ongoing concerns over "water quality" aren't helping either. The $14 billion games, combined with the World Cup preparations, have also resulted in forced evictions, indecent working conditions and low pay for construction workers charged with renovating stadiums.

Yet Coates remains adamant in his conviction: "[There] is no plan B. We are going to Rio."

Then there's the crime problem. The U.S. Department of State has characterized crime rates in Rio de Janeiro as "critical" for the past 25 years, and safety concerns for international visitors have prompted a massive police crackdown. Nearly 20,000 families have been forcibly relocated from homes near stadium sites, with little or no compensation, while an estimated 38 "pacification units" and 9,000 police officers currently occupy 174 favelas, home to 600,000 people.

Image Credit: AP

Image Credit: AP

Image Credit: AP

Yet violence in the city has only increased. Frequent and "deadly clashes" between gangs and law enforcement have fostered an environment of constant fear for residents, many of whom are "afraid to stay out at night."

"The later it gets, the more shootings and confrontations you hear," says community leader Hercules Ferreira Mendes. "Nobody knows what will happen next."

Terrible. Coates claims the "hands on role" the IOC must now take on is "unprecedented," but there's only so much they can do. "We have to make it happen," he says. "That is the IOC approach, you can't walk away from this."

The increasingly desperate situation seems like a foregone conclusion. Nationwide protests over public transportation fare hikes and public service cuts amidst billions spent on World Cup and Olympic preparations have rocked the country since last summer. And these aren't likely to dissipate: Planned rallies at the World Cup have Team Brazil Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari worried they'll hurt his team's chances of winning the title.

Image Credit: AP

Cry me a river. The larger concern remains the tolls such events take on their host countries. At the current rate, an estimated 4,000 migrant workers will have died by the end of construction for World Cup 2022 in Qatar. PolicyMic’s Caira Conner recently explored the problems and broken promises tied to Olympics preparation in nations from Greece to China. Even the Super Bowl inflicts little known damage on homeless populations wherever it's held.

These events provide undeniable economic boosts, but at what long-term and human costs? Is it really worthwhile when so many suffer? It's hard to fully interrogate these issues as the euphoric thrill of the games override questions of how they came to be.

But the questions are still worth asking, and sooner rather than later. Hopefully Rio can salvage matters before it's too late.