Nuzman under arrest
A grim-faced Carlos Nuzman left his home wearing a dark business suit in the Rio heat as he was escorted by police. (Source: AP)

He was a member of the Brazilian men’s volleyball team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

After serving as the head of the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation, he was selected as the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

And in his role as head of the Rio de Janeiro Organizing Committee, he led the bid process that resulted in the selection of Rio de Janeiro for the XXXI Olympics in 2016.

But today, Carlos Nuzman is a man under arrest on bribery and fraud charges. A French investigation into the activities of former IAAF head and IOC member, Lamine Diack, who is under detention in France, have uncovered evidence that indicates vote buying during the bid process for the 2016 Games.

The Daily Mail cites the Brazilian press stating “Nuzman is accused of being the link between Brazilian businessman Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Fiho, nicknamed ‘King Arthur’, and Diack for bribes to African IOC members ahead of the 2009 vote which awarded the Games to the South American city.”

In early September, it was reported by AP that Brazilian authorities searched Nuzman’s house, uncovering $150,000 in cash in five different currencies, as well as three passports: a Brazilian, Russian and a diplomatic passport. According to this more recent AP report, Nuzman “amended his tax declaration to add about $600,000 in income, according to the arrest order,” and that “in Nuzman’s last 10 years as Brazilian Olympic Committee president, his net worth increased 457 percent, according to invLamine Diackestigators.”

Following Nuzman’s arrest, the IOC suspended him from his honorary membership in the IOC, and has been released from duties in the IOC coordination commission overseeing preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, according to the Daily Mail. Not only has Nuzman been impacted, the IOC has suspended the Brazilian Olympic Committee, frozen that organization’s funds, and will not allow it to vote on Olympic matters.

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Thomas Bach and Narendra Modi
Thomas Bach and Narendra Modi

Bidders for the 2022 Winter Games were so few that the IOC ended up with a winning city, Beijing, that does not get much snow, and thus will have to manufacture it to hold ski competitions.

Bidders for the 2024 Summer Games dropped like flies – Boston, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest – forcing IOC to take its two remaining bids of LA and Paris, and offer them both the next two Olympiads, for fear of not having a decent bid for 2028.

And yet, despite the mounting dissatisfaction in localities where hosting the Olympics are most possible, India is gearing up for a 2032 bid for the Summer Olympics. According to Around the Rings, India’s Sports Ministry is about to initiate a feasibility study into a possible bid in order to convince the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who has his doubts. “A study backed by the Indian Sports Ministry could help convince Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to flip his position on bringing the Olympics to the country for the first time.”

If the study indicates that India could organize an Olympics in 2032, then the India Olympic Association will ask the ministry officially for approval to make an official bid.

Modi had actually declined an invitation from IOC president, Thomas Bach, to make a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics on the heels of a corruption scandal that was reported during India’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games. It is also likely that Modi wondered whether the Olympics would be the right area of focus amidst all of its social, financial and infrastructure needs. But Modi appears to be a man of data and facts, so the study is an attempt to provide a rationale and a plan.

According to The Times of India, a ministry source has stated:

We are keen on understanding where the country stands before we decide upon the future course of action. All things that go into hosting the Games will be discussed as we pose ourselves the question whether it is desirable and practical and whether we ought to consider bidding for Olympics at any point.

As a “practice run” to the Olympics, the India Olympic Association is also requesting the sports ministry to approve a bid for the 2030 Asian Games.

So will we see a New Delhi 2032 Campaign? We’ll find out 8 years from now in 2025, when the IOC is currently scheduled to begin the 2032 selection process.

So, yeah, don’t hold your breath.

Posto da Torre
Posto da Torre in Brasilia, Brazil.

The Posto da Torre is a busy gas station in Brazil’s government seat of Brasilia. Before 2013, Posto da Torre (Tower Gas Station) was just one of many of gas stations in the capitol. After 2013, Posto da Torre became the symbol of corruption in Brazil.

A drug investigation by police into a money exchange shop located on the Posta da Torre property revealed that billions of dollars secretly skimmed from the accounts of Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil enterprise, as well as construction companies, were moved into the hands and accounts of Brazil’s most prominent politicians. In fact, over 100 of Brazil’s top politicians have been implicated in what is today called Operation Car Wash, known in Portuguese as Operação Lava Jato.

One of the more well-known names caught up in web of Operation Car Wash is former mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, whose name has appeared on lists of people receiving payments from construction companies, presumably related to the development projects for the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to this post from Inside the Games, Paes is alleged to have received over USD5 million from from engineering giant Odebrecht.

Paes, who ended his role as mayor at the end of 2016, has denied wrongdoing, calling allegations “absurd”.

Former Brazil President, Henrique Cardoso is also under investigation for taking bribes from Odebrecht, has spoken recently about Operation Car Wash and its significance. “Car Wash has played a very important role in Brazil because it lifted the lid, which was necessary. But that will not resolve things immediately. It is a process,” he said in this Reuters article. “How do you change a culture? With time and by setting a good example – there is no other way.”

An interesting aside: there is no car wash in Posto da Torre. As The New York Times cheekily point out, the closest this Brasilia gas stop has to a car wash is a laundromat. At any rate, it is money that gets washed, not cars. When politicians will come clean is anyone’s guess.

Stephen Colbert, like his former boss Jon Stewart and his former colleague, John Oliver, has a wit as sharp as Occam’s razor. It is often a joy to listen to him dissect an issue. In the above video clip, his dissection of the state of the Rio Olympics felt more like a vivisection. Here are a few examples:

I’m pumped for the Rio Games. They are less than two months away…or never…because yesterday Rio’s acting governor warned “the Olympics could be a big failure.”

Many of the venues are still unfinished, possibly because more than ten billion dollars in construction contracts went to just five firms, all of which are currently under investigation for price fixing and kickbacks. This has already led to top executives and politicians being jailed or charged…although the plus side for those executives – the prisons won’t be completed until 2036.

Police on strike in Brazil airport

Experts don’t expect an increase in arrests during the Olympics in part because police patrols may grind to a halt because they can’t afford to buy fuel. Though with any luck the problem will solve itself when the cars are stolen. These budget shortfalls led first responders to stage protests all over Rio yesterday, including one at the airport where police held a sign that read: Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.

Hell. It explains why they’re changing the Olympic logo from three people holding hands to two guys mugging the other guy.

Rio 2016 logos_Steve Colbert

feral cat in rio
A napping stray cat on the Escadaria Selarón staircase

On September 12, 1964, a month prior to the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Mainichi Daily News published the last of a 15-part UPI series entitled, “Great Cities of the World”. The article was entitled “Rio: The City of Marching For Tomorrow”, a meaningless title really. The theme was a familiar one for emerging markets at the time: a fascinating city in a far-off land that was growing rapidly into prominence.

Below are a few of the highlights from that article about the city of Rio de Janeiro that provide us with hints to what has changed, and what has not over the past 52 years.

The Same

  • Corruption: “Rio is still Brazil’s center of political intrigue and corruption.” The article goes on to state that the laws are made in the recently established government seat, Brasilia, but that “the deals are made in elegant Copacabana Beach apartments owned by leading politicians, or by their mistresses, distant relatives or front men.” For sure, this is still true.
  • Industry: “Rio, outside the big coffee-and-automobile complex of Sao Paulo, has managed to win a positions in the textile, food processing and electronics industries.” Coffee and cars are still big exports for Brazil, as are textiles, electronics, aircraft, iron ore and orange juice.
  • Umbanda: “Umbanda claims 30,000 followers in Rio, but the signs would indicate more.” This uniquely Brazilian religion, a fusion of Roman Catholicism, African traditions, and indigenous American beliefs, is still a viable religion, with estimates of 400,000 followers in Brazil, with many of them likely in Rio.
  • Feral Cats: “No reformer has yet suggested doing away with Rio’s half-wild stray cats, numbering countless thousands, which dominate every park, alley and quiet street and no one is likely to attack them. A lot of Cariocas believe cats have ‘the souls of people.'” Rio, apparently, is still a cat haven.

 

Not the Same

  • Population: The population in 1964 was 3million. Today, Rio is creaking with a population over 11 million.
  • Maracana Stadium: Rio still goes crazy for soccer and plays big games in the Maracana Stadium. However, back in 1964, the stadium held an astounding 230,000 people. After the stadium was renovated and re-opened in 2013, it now seats 78,000.
  • Guanabara Bay: “The sparkling blue beauty of Guanabara Bay…”: That certainly isn’t a phrase bandied about these days.

 

guanabara bay pollution
Guanabara Bay

Always

Fun in the Face of Solemnity and Challenge: As was true in 1964, it is still true today: the symbol of devout Catholic belief, Christ the Redeemer, is seen as a symbol of faith and peace, and at the same time, an expression of sweet cynicism. As the article stated, “‘He’s not giving His blessings,’ Cariocas like to wisecrack. ‘He is shrugging His shoulders.'”

christ the redeemer

Petrobras 3

Brazil is facing the worst economy in 25 years. The Zika virus is feeding fears, particularly for expectant mothers. And while the Rio Olympics are presenting an opportunity to shine the international spotlight on Brazil, the underclass are generally feeling that the only people who will benefit from the Games will be the fortunate rich and powerful.

And then, there is Petrobras, a government entity embroiled in a bid rigging scandal between officials in the state-owned energy company and construction companies that wish to win Petrobras projects. A secret cartel of construction companies work with Petrobras officials to select the construction company, purposely agree to exorbitant payments, after which the construction companies kick back payments back to the collaborating Petrobras officials, who use that money to fund friendly politicians, which is helpful for a state-owned organization. It is estimated that the scandal has resulted in over USD5 billion changing hands in various illegal transactions. That’s astounding.

Petrobras bidness 2

I have not done this explanation justice, which is why I want to point you to this very clear and effective explanation of the Petrobras Scandal, and the historical and political context, by Zach Beauchamp.

In Brazil right now, if anything can go wrong, it seems it will go wrong – just on the verge of commencing Brazil’s greatest party of them all, the Olympic Summer Games in Rio.

But one thing we can say about the Petrobras Scandal, something that Beauchamp points out at the end of his article. This scandal, which has been tabloid fodder for months in

sebastian coe_head of IAAF.png

How do you clean up corruption when it is perceived that all parties are steeped in it?

According to this powerful opinion piece by Juliet Macur of the New York Times, better to go with the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.

She writes how the head of WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency), Dick Pound, has consistently been blunt and hardline with regards to corruption in athletics, particularly as it relates to doping. (She cites in the article a hysterical quote from Pound about a famous cyclist’s testosterone levels as a case in point.) But for some reason, when it comes to the fate of IAAF leader, Sebastian Coe, Pound somehow found it in his heart to praise and support, not tear down. As Macur wrote, “What had WADA done with the real Dick Pound?”

Coe took gold in the 1500 meters in 1980 and 1984, was elected as an MP in the British Parliament, and has been a leader in the International Amateur Athletics Federation since 2007, recently becoming the head of the IAAF last August. To be honest, it’s a lousy time to be the head of the IAAF, which is under a dark cloud of suspicion.

SEbastian Coe wins gold in 1500 in Los Angeles
Sebastian Coe wins gold in the 1500 meter race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games

There are allegations of gifts made in exchange for awarding the 2019 world track and field championships to Doha, Qatar. There is the state-sponsored doping program in Russia that was conveniently ignored by the IAAF but eventually exposed by WADA, resulting in Russia’s track and field being banned from international competition, including the Rio Olympics in August. There is the suspected doping of Kenya’s runners, whose performance at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing last August was so superlative, they topped the medals tables for the first time ever.

And finally, there is Coe himself, who very reluctantly disassociated himself from his long-time paid association with Nike. The IAAF awarded the 2021 Athletics World Championships to Eugene, Oregon in the US, with apparently a formal bidding process. Oregon is definitely a hotbed for track, so Eugene’s selection is not a surprise. But Oregon is also the home to Nike. There’s no real indication that Nike, and thus Coe, had anything shady to do with the selection process. But taken all together, the IAAF is not currently a poster child for transparency and ethical decision making.

But as Macur explains, “It can be difficult to find purity at the top of international sports. In track and field, Coe, the former middle-distance star and Olympic champion, just might be the best option. He should serve his punishment for not speaking out against pervasive doping in track and field. His sentence: to clean up his dirty sport.”

Macur goes on to quote 5,000-meter runner and champion, Lauren Fleshmen as saying that Coe probably didn’t know all the corrupt things going on in the IAAF because of its