“For better or worse, politics and the Olympics are intertwined,” was an argument we made back in 2008 during a discussion on the Tlateloco massacre prior to the 1968 Mexico City Games. That certainly has not changed at the Summer Olympics that is will be officially inaugurated tonight in Rio de Janeiro.
Acting Brazilian President Michel Temer became the first leader, acting or otherwise to skip the opening ceremonies of an Olympics since U.S. President jimmy Carter at the 1980 Winter Games. His name was not announced as tradition for the host country’s leader during the public introduction of the International Olympic Committee chief. Yet his absence did not go unnoticed by some of the thousands of spectators at the Maracana Stadium.
Update: Temer did appear at the ceremonies to officially open the Rio Games, whereupon he was soundly booed by the spectators.
“Shouts of ‘Fora Temer’ (‘Temer Out’) were heard coming from the crowd from the left of the grandstand,” reported O Globo on its website.
“Then part of the audience booed,” as if to drown out the chanters yet that led to stronger calls of “Fora Temer,” according to O Globo. The jeering would die down as the ceremonies continued with numerous performances and the parade of athletes participating at the Olympics.
Had he appeared and spoken at the opening ceremonies, organizers would have allegedly “raise the volume of the music or play sound effects” in order to cover up any booing or jeering against him.
Temer last month claimed the Rio Games would serve as “a time of international unity and national reconciliation” though that hasn’t been the case in the early goings of the event.
Several thousand protesters marched in Rio hours prior to the opening ceremonies with anti-Temer banners and chants. This rally, as seen in the video at the top of this post, caused a detour in the planned route of the Olympic torch parade.
“We don’t have the conditions to receive the Games,” said Leonardo Ladeira, one of the demonstrators. “At this moment it is a chaotic activity.”
That protest was carried out peacefully though police did launch tear gas and stun grenades against demonstrators at a different rally near the Maracana on Friday afternoon. Furthermore, officers clashed with some 200 protesters who rallied in downtown Sao Paulo in opposition to Brazil acting as the host nation for the Olympics.
Meanwhile, a group of fans during the first match for the Brazilian men’s national team on Thursday unfurled a banner in Portuguese translated as “Stop the Coup in Brazil. Temer Out.” Perhaps unsurprisingly this was not shown on the official television feed of the game that ended goalless and with the home side booed off the field.
Temer took over the presidency from Dilma Rousseff in a controversial impeachment process held amid an economy in recession, political strife, and the wide-ranging repercussions of the “Lava Jato” corruption scandal. On the eve of the opening ceremonies, a Senate impeachment panel opted to continue with the proceedings against her:
The 21-member committee voted 14-5 to try Rousseff for allegedly doctoring government accounts to allow more public spending in the run-up to her 2014 re-election.
Her impeachment would mark the end of 13 years of rule by the left-of-center Workers Party. Along with a string of corruption scandals, it has already set off Brazil’s worst political crisis in decades as the country prepares to host the Olympic Games in the midst of a severe recession.
The political uncertainty has kept most foreign leaders away from the Games, which open on Friday in Rio de Janeiro.The full Senate is expected to vote next Tuesday on possibly approving the charges against Rousseff and begin the trial that should reach a verdict by the end of the month.
A survey published on Friday found that 61% of 1500 Brazilian respondents support having new presidential elections prior to 2018. 18% want Rousseff to return to the presidency and serve her term in office, while 17% believe Temer should become Brazil’s leader until the end of Rousseff’s term.
YouTube Source – EFE Brasil
Online Sources (English) – France24, The Latin Americanist, Fox News Latino, teleSUR English, Washington Post, Times Live
Online Sources including Update (Portuguese) – Brasil 247, O Globo, Agencia EBC, EFE Brasil (Twitter)