5 Protests That Are Shaking Up the Rio Olympics
A battle over freedom of expression is taking place.
Nobody thought the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio would be easy. At times, it seemed like a perfect storm of problems and controversies would turn the games into a disaster.
That hasn’t happened. In fact, Brazil has managed to pull off a relatively smooth Olympics so far (aside from the green diving pool, of course).
But like any global event, these past few weeks have attracted their fair share of political protest. What better venue is there, after all, to air grievances and get the world’s attention?
Here are 5 protests that have occurred during the Games so far:
Fora Temer! / Temer Out!
This has been the most sustained protest during the Games. President Dilma Rousseff is about to be impeached, and many people are outraged. They’re especially mad about who her successor will be — Michel Temer. During the opening ceremony, Temer was loudly booed by the crowd. Since then, protesters have gathered inside and outside of arenas to silently hold signs that read “Fora Temer!” or “Come Back Democracy,” wearing political t-shirts and chanting for the Temer’s removal. Most of the time, the protesters have been expelled from the stadiums, which has provoked another cause for protest: Is freedom of expression being trampled?
Freedom of Expression Versus Censorship
After protesters were removed and censored during the Olympics — in accordance to IOC policy, but in violation of Brazilian law — people across the country were upset. Brazil is a country with a history of dictatorship, so, for many, this eagerness to censor was evocative of an earlier, darker time. Since the country is in a state of political turmoil, the fears seem urgent.
“The Brazilian constitution guarantees freedom of thought and expression,” said Fernando Fernandes, a Rio lawyer has criticized the government’s response to protest.
“It is extremely worrying that in Brazil this sort of censorship is happening,” he said.
Oppression of Women in Iran
In Iran, women can’t attend all-male sporting events. This is just one rule in a vast web of restrictions on freedom that women face.
To oppose this law, an Iranian activist unfurled a banner that read, “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums," during a men’s volleyball match between Egypt and Iran.
She was eventually removed from the stadium and told security, "I am so sorry. What I am fighting for is for the right for Iranian women to be at matches. It is my right to be here. It is the basic right of Iranian women."
She started crying because "it hurts to explain again and again that this peaceful action is not a political message, but a positive message of peace and human rights."
Workers in Rio Not Getting Paid
The city of Rio is in such bad financial shape that, leading up to the Olympics, many government workers — including the police and emergency service workers — have not been getting paid. This seemed like the latest example of the government prioritizing tourists over actual citizens and Brazilians were furious.
Throughout the city, workers have greeted tourists with signs that read, “Welcome to Hell.”
Seen at the airport in Rio today: First responders welcome toutists. A sign of what's to come during the Olympics? pic.twitter.com/mCOYB3deuo— Michael Smith (@SmithMarkets) June 27, 2016
Money Spent on Olympics
It’s not just paychecks that are being gutted. Spending on social welfare programs, education, and infrastructure has tanked as the Olympics gets underway. This has brought crowds of protesters to arenas to demand justice, where they have clashed with police and fought through tear gas.
As William Robison told Reuters, “Around $15 billion have been spent on these Olympics, while, at the same time, there have been massive cutbacks in education and in health and in all kinds of public services.
Brazilians are hoping that the global spotlight will help to bring about change following the Olympics. That’s hard to tell at this point. But since the country has been able to pull off a successful tournament, maybe they can pull off much-needed reform afterwards.
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