The Olympics are often a celebration of international unity and collaboration through sports, but this summer’s games in Rio face more challenges in that arena than in most years. As in other host cities, the construction of Olympic villages and venues has displaced many people, particularly those living in Rio’s favelas. Security preparations involving heavy-handed police actions aimed at “clearing” the city of drugs and crime have led to complaints of official brutality against the city’s lower-income and darker-skinned citizens.
After a “legal coup” bypassed elections to install a conservative and corrupt government in power, investment in education and health seems exactly the opposite of what people in Brazil can expect, despite the desperate need for attention to the Zika virus epidemic.
Zika can cause a severe disability, microcephaly, in babies born to mothers infected with the virus. Babies with microcephaly will need supportive care for life. Zika affects more people in the state of Rio de Janeiro than any other state in Brazil. The hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to enter the state for the games may end up passing the virus, not the torch, around the world.
If you are traveling to Brazil for the Olympics this summer, stay healthy and be mindful of your impact. Read our free Zika fact sheet, now in five languages, to learn how to avoid getting Zika. Skip ‘favela tours’ which are often disrespectful of local residents. Consider bringing copies of our Portuguese-language materials, including our Zika fact sheet, Where There is No Doctor, and A Community Guide to Environmental Health to give to local residents.