In an interview this week to O Globo, Carlos Arthur Nuzmann, President of the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee pitched: “We made the commitment to holding the Games without public funding and we are fulfilling it”. But facts seem to go against Mr. Nuzmann.
There was public money, and depending on the angle you analyse, lots of it. Of the R$ 39 billion spent on the Olympics, roughly 43% came directly from the Brazilian taxpayers, the number is bigger if you consider additional state expenses, like security, as the Folha has shown. This represents 14 year’s-worth of Federal incentives and subsidies related to culture related activities.
To say the Games happened without public funding, Nuzmann is limiting to the budget for the Organizing Committee. This R$ 7,4 billion fund is a share, coming mostly from sponsors, ticket sales, licensing and the IOC (International Olympic Committee). But even this number is incorrect because it ignores tax breaks and sponsorship by the Federal Government’s companies.
The creative accounting by the top official for the Olympics contains a convenient logic. Nuzmann affirmed in a conference: “The Olympics have nothing to do with the problems of the State [Rio de Janeiro]”. But the government of Rio de Janeiro says exactly the opposite: “Therefore a state of public calamity is declared, due to the severe financial crisis in the State of RJ, that prevents it from carrying out obligations it has assumed as a result of the Olympic Games”.
While Rio was preparing for the Games, other cities were evaluating potential candidacies, weighing the use of public funding. Stockholm and Boston gave up. Munich and Hamburg took the question to their voters and were turned down.
Brazilians didn’t have the same opportunity to vote as the Germans did. It is time to evaluate from various angles whether or not this kind of public investment is worth the cost. The conclusion may be “yes”, it is worth. But the debate should be carried out using arguments that aren’t so bias.
With information from O Globo, Folha and UOL.