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

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes
Rio mayor Eduardo Paes

Of the cities with the highest murder rates in the world, 41 of the top 50 are in Mexico and Latin America. Of those 41, 21 of them are in Brazil. It is both a stunning and unfortunate fact, particularly as Brazil is doing its best to get ready for the biggest sports show in the world – The Summer Olympics.

So by extension, there are concerns regarding crime in Rio de Janeiro.

Top 50 Most Violent Cities by Country_Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, Australian chef de mission, Kitty Chiller, announced that members of the Australian Olympic squad would not be allowed to visit the favelas “because we could not control visits involving a large number of athletes going to different places at different times.”

While the favelas in Rio, which are communities where the lowest income families often live, are a not-so-uncommon tourist destination, they are also apparently centers for crime: drugs, robberies, murder.

The mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, is doing all he can to fight off this negative perception. “There is a lot of ignorance about Rio and Brazil, a certain drama of how things are,” he said in response to Chiller’s announcement.

The world will come to Rio in August. Brazilians will welcome them with open arms. The first Olympic Games held in South America will be a tremendous event. And then life (and death) will likely go on…

See a previous post called “Life in the Favela: At War with the Pacifying Police

Sazae-san_You Didn't Do Your Homework Thief

Japan is an incredibly safe city. With over 13 million strangers jampacked together, you might think that the crime and violence that plague other cities in the West might be evidenced in Tokyo. But that isn’t the case.

I won’t go into factors here. But I was surprised to see that in the world of Sazae-san in the early 1960s, crime was not an unknown quantity. In the cartoon at the top of the page from the book The Best of Sazae-san – The Olympic Years“, Sazae-san jokes about the incompetence of a con-man. In the cartoons below, the illustrator Machiko Hasegawa is able to make light of kidnapping and theft.

Sazae-san_Don't Worry I Won't Kidnap You

 

Sazae-san_It Was a Cheapie

The reality is, crime may very well have been on the minds of many Japanese in Tokyo at the time. As this line graph of violent crime rates from 1950 to 1996, Japan actually had higher rates of violent crime than Sweden, the United States and the UK in the late 1950s early 1960s. That was likely a product of the post-war years as Japan was crawling its way out of a decimated landscape, both economically and physically.

Total Violent Crime Rates 1950 to 1996
From the book, The Great Disruption, by Francis Fukuyama

Another popular signal of this anxiety was the powerful 1963 film, “High and Low”, by director Akira Kurosawa, starring actor Toshiro Mifune as a rich industrialist who must come to grips with the kidnapping of a child. Here is a wonderful summary and analysis of the film by New York Times film critic, A. O. Scott.