Rio 2016: An opportunity for change

A senior journalism major observes Brazil’s corruption during the Olympic Games.

A white sign with bold red letters read, “Fora Todos Eles,” which roughly translates to, “All of them out.” It referred to all of the Brazilian government officials. But the answer I got when I asked the protesters themselves if they were for or against the Olympics, was that it was not something they could control, so they planned to use it for a positive change in the country.

It all began in Copenhagen, Denmark, as Rio de Janeiro became the official hosting city of the 2016 Olympics. With mixed emotions from both the media and its local population, Rio 2016 successfully surpassed many expectations.

Every two years, NBCUniversal broadcasts the winter and summer Olympics. This year, I was lucky enough to be one of the 44 interns chosen to go to Rio de Janeiro and represent NBCUniversal as an olympic host. Though the staff and I worked over 12 hours a day in the duration of the Olympic games, we did have a small amount of time to explore the city of Rio de Janeiro and meet many of the city’s residents.

In an event highly valuable to nations throughout the world, the Rio 2016 Olympics became the perfect opportunity for Brazil to make its issues known and seek help fighting its government instability.

On the morning of the opening ceremony, protesters from different parts of the country came together and camped out in front of the Hotel Mar Palace Copacabana, one of the most elite hotels in South America. My co-workers and I were sitting on the balcony of the Palace having breakfast when the protest began, and we were soon interrupted by the shoutings and decided to stop what we were doing to see it unfold.

Though the signs were clear on what the protest was about, I wanted to go into the crowd and get an understanding of the thoughts of the protesters themselves.

The Olympic games are broadcasted in 160 countries throughout the world and the Rio 2016 games were ranked as second highest primetime audience for any non-American summer games, according to NBC. The opportunity for Brazilian residents to be heard was bigger than ever.

One of the protesters, Ana Clara Silva, was at first against the games taking place in her country especially during a time with many governmental issues. However, a couple of days before the protest, she began to see the games as a benefit to the corrupt country.

“First, I wanted to throw water on the torch. Then, little by little, I began to want to see it lit making its way through my gorgeous country,” she said. “It’s time the world sees the pain and problems in my country. I just hope they do something about it.”

While inside the games, Brazilians would chant, “Fora Temer,”  which roughly translates to, “Out with Temer!” and refers to Brazil’s acting president Michel Temer.

Temer, who was vice president until May, assumed presidential powers after the suspension of President Dilma Rousseff during her impeachment trial. Temer is known to be more conservative and has not received a warm welcome by the people of Brazil as the country’s new president.

Even with extreme government corruption, the hopeful mindset of change seemed to be the spirit of the Rio Olympics outside of the games.

Many residents from the “favelas” would make their way to the beaches every morning selling items they felt would bring some profit. What boggled my mind were the big smiles on the beach workers’ faces while walking barefoot in the hot sand.

“I work hard every morning, because my country needs me. Everyone here needs a little bit of ‘cachaça’ in their lives,” said a Rio vendor named Luiz. “Cachaça “is the local Brazilian liquor, similar to rum and most famously used to make the local Brazilian drink, the Caipirinha.

It was conversations like those, with everyday workers, that made me realize that though Brazil is currently dealing with government corruption, they are also looking at the brighter side of life. When asked what keeps the Brazilian calm during the storm, Luiz answered, “Bob Marley. Don’t worry, be happy!”

Sabrina Silva can be reached at

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