Beyond the Rhetoric
By Harry C. Alford
It was 2009 and the International Olympic Committee was going to choose which city would be the 2016 host for the World Olympics. The United States committee was rather cocky about its chances. After all we had the political star, nouveau political leader, Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle, giving the presentation and who would surely mesmerize the committee. The other presenters were Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.
Despite the First Lady, our presentation was concerning. All labor involved would be under union only opportunity (Project Labor Agreements) which means no Blacks nor Hispanics nor women would get much of a chance to work before and during the Olympics. Worse than that, large sections of the South Side of Chicago would fall under imminent domain. They proposed to gut out large historical neighborhoods and replace them with stadiums and stations for the 2016 Olympics. The residents of these targeted neighborhoods were ready to demonstrate, fight, and sue and everything else to resist the proposed gentrification of their family homes and neighborhoods. Political opportunists began their preparation to pounce on the “buy low, sell high” hustles.
Rio saw the above flaw and moved quickly into their presentation. They were not going to transplant any neighborhoods without a plan for empowerment. Much of the needed infrastructure was already in place due to the preparation of the World Cup Soccer Games. Their slums or Flavillas (hillside slums) would be upgraded not just leveled. Jobs by the thousands would be created and all would have opportunity. Brazil is 53 percent Black and the largest Black population second to only Nigeria and now they are going to get empowerment (ha, ha).
The Rio presentation was the winning hand. The Chicago team lost in the first round. From that point on, the glitter of the Obama Era started to tarnish. The buy low, sell high investors in Chicago were crushed when they got the bad news. Some must have invested too much in the project. President of the Chicago Board of Education and member of the 2016 Olympic Committee Michael W. Scott became so depressed he committed suicide. Coincidentally, I had drinks with the gentleman and others a few weeks before the decision.
I have been to Rio de Janeiro a few times. When visiting you will be reminded of the Don Henley song “All they want to do is Dance.” It is a 24/7 party. However, we had our most successful Trade Mission there. We took 84 businesses and did over $34 million in four days. I remember the Minority Business Development Agency and the State Department trying to follow us around and I would tell them: “Stay out of our way. We know what we are doing.”
Black Brazilians are hungry to mix with Black Americans.
One thing that I know is that the Brazil power structure will not stand for Black empowerment. The disparity is about to explode in civil protest. The 53 percent Black sectors looks at us and know that we did not get empowerment by being nice. We took it to the streets and would not back down. Sooner or later they are going to emulate us. Since winning the Olympic selection in 2009 more than 2,500 Black males have been killed by the police. They aren’t going to take that much longer.
Much of the Brazilian government is rattled with wide scale corruption. Its largest corporation, Petrobras, is scandalized with bid rigging. Principals in Petrobras and many of its partners are marching off to prison. We are talking billions of dollars here. With that comes lobbyists and elected officials. As former President Lula is considered a hero in the soccer and Olympic competitions, current President Dilma Rousseff is facing an impeachment trial for cooking the federal books. The nation’s overall economy is in the dumps.
The Olympic Games may end up being a horrible mess. The drug wars are interfering in the venues. The site that will host the volley ball games is littered with human body parts washing ashore (oogie!). The rowing teams will be rowing in polluted water (dead fish and all).
The usual prostitution, panhandling and robberies are not going to be deterred. The ongoing lethal drug wars are not going to take a respite during the games. The flavillas along the hillsides will still be there.
The world is now being plagued with the debilitating virus known as Zika. Guess what? No other nation in the world is being hit with Zika like Brazil. Members of our Olympic team are bowing out of the competition in fear of ruining their bloodlines. Zika is out of control and Brazil is becoming the new “ground zero.”
There are also reports that the games are being seriously looked at by ISIS as a super soft target. That would be all that Brazil needs.
Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: [email protected].