Brazil's So Broke Olympians Don't Get Air-Conditioning

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/05/2015 02:11:00 PM
It must get hot wearing these Olympic outfits when there's no A/C.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Brazil during the tail end of the Lula years was riding high on elevated commodity prices as China fueled a seemingly endless demand for what Brazil was selling...then the party stopped when the PRC's economy slowed down, ending a commodity supercycle in which Brazil was one of the biggest beneficiaries. With the 2014 World Cup and the forthcoming 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazil has essentially been left holding the bag with costly international sporting events it can barely afford as perma-recession has taken hold.

As bad as things are, perhaps the ultimate humiliation for Brazil is yet to come. Imagine one of the southern hemisphere's major energy exporters not even being able to provide Olympic athletes with air-conditioning. Due to cost overruns--is anyone really surprised when these Games are concerned--budget slashing has to happen somewhere. As it so happens, Brazil is keen on shifting the burden on the Olympic committees:
Shifting the cost for air conditioning and other amenities from the host city to each nation’s Olympic committee – or to the athletes themselves – is a big deal, said Nick Symmonds, a two-time Olympic runner. “The world wants to tune in and watch the world’s greatest athletes compete at the absolute highest level," Symmonds said. "If you don’t provide them with good food, a good place to sleep and comfortable temperature, they won’t be able to recover and bring the A-plus product that the world is demanding. To cut the budget on athletes’ hospitality and comfort, that’s just going to cheapen the games.”

[Rio 2016 spokesperson Mario] Andrada said air conditioning is an “absolute necessity” in some areas, though not bedrooms. The 17-day event, which kicks off on Aug. 5, takes place in Rio’s winter, and the average daytime temperature is in the mid-20s Celsius (mid-70s Farenheit). Some days are much hotter, though, with highs last August creeping into the mid-90s.

Others worry that the cuts will further underscore the chasm between athletes from wealthy countries and those from poorer ones. (Already some top athletes, including the NBA players who join the USA Basketball squad, choose luxury hotels over accommodations in the Olympic Village.) Those who can afford extra for air conditioning or who travel with laptops or iPads (the host committee has scrapped plans to provide TVs in individual bedrooms) will have it; others may not.
It all goes back to the notion of "economic diversification." Brazil has some world-leading manufacturing concerns like Embraer which makes smaller-capacity regional passenger jets, but for the most part, it remains over-reliant on commodity exports. Even in calendar year 2015, it lives by high commodity prices and dies by low commodity prices. Interestingly, its newfound austerity will further disadvantage fellow athletes from developing countries by forcing them to do with al fresco accommodations.

Is Brazil being shamed? They now say they will provide free A/C, but you never know:
Throw away the floor fans. Rio de Janeiro Olympic organizers have changed their minds and said Friday that athletes will have free air conditioning in their bedrooms at the athletes village. The decision to have free air conditioning comes after The Associated Press reported this week that about 10,000 Olympic athletes would have to pay for it because of budget cuts.

“The sports department found a solution that could allow us to have the air conditioning,” said Mario Andrada, the spokesman for the 2016 Games. “So were buying air conditioning for all the athletes’ bedrooms and social rooms.”
This may be true, but even suggesting that no one gets free air-conditioning suggests evident desperation is at work here.