THE BLOG

Corruption Probe Taints Rio's Olympic Image

13/02/2015 11:41 GMT | Updated 14/04/2015 10:59 BST

With Rio agog over Carnival Federal Police in Brazil are investigating whether politically influential companies used corrupt practices to win contracts for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games.

International Olympic Comittee officials and the sustainability officer of the local organizing commitee say that everything is above board and things are moving forward according to schedule.

But resignation of the Brazilian army general who heads the Olympic Delivery Authority just 18 months before the games and the new sports minister getting caught in an overbilling fiddle are warning signs that give the Federal Police just cause for concen.

According to senior Federal Police officials two thirds of the contracts for construction and infrastructure associated with the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics are controlled by companies involved in the Lava Jato (Auto Wash) scheme that bilked billions of dollars from state oil giant Petrobras and has president Dilma Rousseff operating in damage control mode. Ironically, Petrobras funds help support the Rio games.

The carefree atmosphere of the world's biggest party is being disrupted by street protests and social unrest. Public outrage has been fueled by frequent power and water shortages and increased public transportation costs. Brazil has been forced to import expensive electricity from Argentina.

With the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics not starting until next August there is distinct possibility that revelations about the Federal Police corruption investigations, favela violence and other street prostests in response to power and water shortages could generate a groundswell of unrest.

If the situation continues to get amped up by NGOs, Facebook and other social media sites it could escalate into a "just say no to Rio Olympics" movement similar to the "just say no to FIFA" protests that developed on the eve of the 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup.

Because of Brazil's sluggish economy Rio de Janeiro state has been forced to implement a $500 million cut in its 2015 public security budget, creating morale and coverage problems for state military police, who operate special pacification units that attempt to keep the peace in favelas, many of which are near olympic venues.

Gun battles in Rio between the pacification police and favela drug gangs occur on a daily basis.

The role of organized crime in Brazilian society, meanwhile, is being downplayed. The Department of Organized Crime Investigation (DEIC), inspired in part by the work of former New York police chief and mayor Rudy Giuliani, has been repackaged and now operates as the Department of Criminal Investigations, with a more generalized mission.

Environmental concerns remain a contentious issue. Olympic sailing and wind surfing events will be held in pitcturesque Guanabara Bay, where two thirds of the sewage dumped into the water daily is untreated human and industrial waste.

Although the commitment to reduce pollution in the bay by 80 percent was part of the deal that caused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to select Rio as the site for the 2016 Summer Olympics back in 2009, little progress has been made to ameliorate the situation.

The senior environmental official of Rio de Janeiro has told local media that the agreed upon goal will not be met. .

The Rio organizing committee challenges that claim and has stated that the Rio state government has misinterpreted the issue.

In spite of the fact that reasearchers have found that the water in Guanabara Bay contians an antibiotic-resistant "superbacteria" the International Olympc Committee and the Rio organizing committee have refused to consider alternative locations.

Responding to allegations of massive corruption at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Jean-Claude Killy, a special consultant to the International Olympic Committee, told international media that he couldn't "...recall an olympics without corruption."

By the time the olympic torch arrives in Rio Killy might need to add the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics to his list.