Brazil 2016 Olympics: Economic boom or bust?

With just one month to go until the 2016 Summer Olympics kick off (5-21 August) in Rio de Janiero, the city is abuzz with anticipation. The lead-up to this year’s games – the first ever to take place in South America – has been wrought with plenty of commentary on the impact that hosting them will have on Brazil’s economy.

Stakeholders have voiced innumerable concerns with regard to Rio’s hosting capacity, and with good reason – traffic in Brazil ranks among the world’s most congested, the country still faces major infrastructure problems and a crucial subway link to Olympic Park has yet to be completed.

Alongside questions about the quality of the Olympic experience for athletes, commentators and ticketholders alike are alarming reports of the destructive effects that preparation for the games has had and will continue to have on the livelihoods of Brazilian citizens. The country’s poor has felt the greatest burden; thousands of people have been forcibly removed from their homes as Rio’s favelas have quite literally been bulldozed as part of the government’s Olympic development efforts.

Despite these looming issues, however, for many policymakers around the globe (including Mayor of Rio de Janiero Eduardo Paes), the prospect of hosting the Olympics holds great promise for economic development. For example, one study argues that Olympic host countries have historically seen increases in international trade.

Economic development aside, hosting the Olympics carries a certain prestige: throughout the years, such a responsibility has been universally understood as a signal of the given host country’s emergence on the global playing field. Whether Brazil will stand to reinforce this notion remains to be seen.