Seeing athletes representing countries constantly stunted by war and poverty, it is a very moving experience knowing those athletes made it there, against all odds.
The purpose of the Olympic Movement is to link sport with culture and education, promote the practice of sport and the joy found in effort, as well as to help to build a better world through sport practised in a spirit of peace, excellence, friendship and respect (olympic.org).
While we can get caught up in the true spirit of the Games, it is not that easy to ignore the billions that are spent on hosting such an event. Seeing huge stadiums purpose built, subways erected, whole fleets of new buses rolled out, residential villages built and airports upgraded, one does start to wonder how a country in this day and age can afford to pour the resources into an event that lasts just weeks.
Not to mention the opening and closing ceremonies that seem to get costlier and more elaborate every four years.
Rio de Janeiro 2016
For a country to host The Olympic Games, it has always been seen as their chance to shine, to develop, as a source of pride for the nation and a chance for it to expose itself to the world. The next Olympic Games are to be held in Rio de Janeiro. The nod to host the Olympics is representative of the progress that Brazil has made.
But as the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics slowly approach, it raises many questions about the social and economic benefits for this nation (policymic.com).
Some Brazilians are optimistic that the Olympics will bring tourism, employment and strengthen the economy. The benefits are not just in tourism and business, but reach all the way through society. They create jobs, which their young people need, and reach all the working population.
Others are more sceptical because they just want to see basic resources like schools and hospitals improved, streets made safer and living standards
increased rather than see money wasted on sport,
Often to offset the financial burdens of a mega-event, governments promise to clean up corruption and fix social problems. However, acting as a host city cannot be seen as the cure-all for social and economic problems that currently hinder the country (sevenpillarsinstitute.org). Many people in Rio have become worse off. Around 30000 shanty town residents have been evicted to make way for the Olympic village and as an attempt to clean up the city.
Rather than help poor communities, Olympic development is focused on boosting real-estate prices in upmarket areas, where the infrastructure improvements are largely concentrated. (guardian.co.uk).
Taxes are extremely high. Bus fares have just been raised. The already large gap between the wealthy and the poor, becomes even greater. It has been suggested that the IOC need to change the way they assess bids to include human rights and better values (guardian.co.uk).
An expensive task ahead
It seems to be a huge burden for a developing nation to cope with, especially when such infrastructures as the Rio airport cannot cope with current air traffic.
A stadium in Rio, just 6 years old, intended for the track-and-field competitions, has just been closed because it's in danger of collapse. The velodrome is about to be knocked down because it isn't up to Olympic standards. And a handful of other venues are being modernised or upgraded because they simply aren't good enough (time.com).
South Africa and Beijing have been left with expensive white elephants, because the huge stadiums they constructed are now rarely used. Greece is still in much debt from their hosting experience. Many believe Brazil might suffer the same drain on resources(guardian.co.uk).
With the World Cup being held in Rio next year, and the Olympics just two years later, we can only hope that every good decision is made for the benefit of its citizens. The hope is that these events will contribute to Brazil's growth as an emerging economy and that it will continue to benefit the country beyond the closing ceremony.
There is hope
The Olympics Games are a wonderful platform for Christianity to be shared with athletes from nations who rarely hear the Good News of Jesus. It is a unifying event that brings forth so much good and joy.
This is a rare and exciting opportunity and despite the secular focus of the games, God still wants to touch the hearts of many, through his servants at Rio de Janeiro.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html