Spotlight on a blackout in Brazil

Thankfully, beyond a few muggings, last night’s massive Brazilian blackout seems to have caused little lasting damage. But the international coverage of the event is probably a good preview for the Olympic host country’s next six years: Questions remained about what happened and what the fallout would be in Brazil, a nation seen as an ...

Thankfully, beyond a few muggings, last night's massive Brazilian blackout seems to have caused little lasting damage. But the international coverage of the event is probably a good preview for the Olympic host country's next six years:

Questions remained about what happened and what the fallout would be in Brazil, a nation seen as an ascending economic and political power.

"The image of Brazil, of Rio, is bad enough with all the violence," said 35-year-old graphic designer Paulo Viera, as he sat in a restaurant a block from the sandy arc of Copacabana.

Thankfully, beyond a few muggings, last night’s massive Brazilian blackout seems to have caused little lasting damage. But the international coverage of the event is probably a good preview for the Olympic host country’s next six years:

Questions remained about what happened and what the fallout would be in Brazil, a nation seen as an ascending economic and political power.

"The image of Brazil, of Rio, is bad enough with all the violence," said 35-year-old graphic designer Paulo Viera, as he sat in a restaurant a block from the sandy arc of Copacabana.

Standing in an open-air restaurant where patrons were drinking quickly warming beer, Viera said he worried about how the outage might look for a city that last month was picked to host the Olympics and will be the showcase city for soccer’s World Cup in 2014. "We don’t need this to happen. I don’t know how it could get worse."

The blackout comes on the heels of a wave of gang fighting in Rio’s slums that led to violence fears ahead of the games.

"It’s sad to see such a beautiful city with such a precarious infrastructure," 22-year-old law student Igor Fernandes said. "This shouldn’t happen in a city that is going to host the Olympic Games."

This is a little unfair. Even Rio’s mayor acknowledges that the city has a long way to go in terms of safety and infrastructure before the games, but they do have another six years, and the IOC knew what they were getting when they awarded Brazil the games. 

The problem with developing coutries hosting events like the Olympics is that while the intention is to highlight the enormous progress they’ve made, they’re just as likely to highlight the shortcomings. . Every crime wave or infrastructure failure, or corruption scandal Rio suffers in the next six years will now be covered in the context of whether the city is ready for the games.

Just ask South Africa or Russia

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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