Last week, while I vacationed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians marked the 191st anniversary of their independence from Portugal by taking to the streets. But the masses weren’t celebrating; they were protesting. Though my tourist guidebook’s phrase translation didn’t cover civil unrest, from what I could gather, The Man’s been keeping them down.
You may recall that I attempted a trip to Rio last fall, with an eye toward catching a few soccer matches and previewing venues for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The good news: this time they let me on the plane.
(Actually, the visa application process is remarkably easy, and I expect Americans traveling to these sporting events who know about the requirements to have no trouble.)
So you’d think Brazil’s futbol-crazed population would be wild with anticipation and pride about hosting the world’s two biggest sporting events.
Oh, they’re wild alright.
The every-man, especially those under 30, resent the resources their country is spending to host the world while they suffer with limited jobs, transportation, education and housing. The games will be exciting, they say, but there’s no way they’ll ever be able to afford a ticket.
On Independence Day, my husband and I ventured outside our hotel and found stores closed, and restaurants boarded up. Walking through the city’s ghost town, protesters fell easily into two groups. Angry young men dressed in black overturned trash bins and set off flash bangs (they were followed closely by police on foot, in cars and in helicopters.) Exuberant, colorfully dressed young people seemed more interested in flirting with each other than causing problems, though they were clearly sincere. News reports say police made ten arrests and used tear gas and rubber bullets to control the crowds, though we saw no serious problems.
My prediction: If the TV shows empty seats, unused by corporate sponsors, as we saw at London’s 2012 Olympics, expect outrage by Brazilian soccer fans.
I appreciate the young couple dressed in “Organizer” tees who explained it all to us as we sat on the 2nd floor of the McDonald’s with a perfect view of Protest Central. Yeah, they weren’t too proud to have a Big Mac.