While the 2014 World Cup featured many tasteless examples of opulence and sponsors’ champagne dos, the Olympics organisers seem to have learned some imporant lessons from FIFA. Executive producer Marco Balich has recently confirmed the Rio 2016 opening ceremony will break with the recent tradition of large-scale and expensive shows, featuring a low-emissions cauldron and an “analogue” experience. With the country in recession and unemployment levels at 11%, it would simply be inappropriate for Brazil to spend the same amount as London and Sochi on its opening ceremony.
This sensitivity and humility should be seen as a positive. But the way it being covered is too often far from positive. And make no mistake, there are positive stories.
The Daily Mail recently ran an outraged and incredulous story reporting that the ceremony would will include model Giselle Bundchen being mugged. As readers of this blog will know, the foreign media are no strangers to negative sensationalism when it comes to Brazil and this story is but one more example.
Today it’s being widely reported that this staged robbery had been canned from the ceremony, but is that the full story?
Allegedly, the scene was not just of an attempted robbery but of a young black male being chased by police. The idea was clearly to challenge traditional stereotypes but, in the face of media backlash, it was deemed this was a step too far.
The reported comments of the organising committee have not necessarily helped matters, suggesting the scene was never actually part of the plan and that some elements in the rehearsal ‘were inserted just to confuse the public’.
But, in the face of largely toxic media cynicism, this was always going to be a losing battle.
Brazil is a hugely diverse country and it’s clear the ceremony is looking to celebrate that diversity in a highly positive manner. As well as some of the more internationally known Bossa Nova artists like Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso, the show is also going to feature ‘funkeiros’ (funk carioca, Brazil’s version of hip hop) and Lea T, the first transsexual artist to feature in an Olympic opening ceremony.
But you would have to look far and wide to find much coverage of the fact…
At some point, the negative perception of the games has become the accepted “reality” – in English at any rate.
Here on the ground, there is actually a growing sense of excitement. The new tram line has opened, the finishing touches are being put to the main streets, with the construction hoardings (present for the last four years) coming down to reveal impressive new surrounds, the cooler weather is allaying fears of the Zika virus and the photos that have leaked out of the opening ceremony’s dress rehearsal are generating widespread buzz on social media.
It is frankly a tragedy that the opportunity to convey that excitement has been missed.