RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil spent more than $10 billion preparing for the Olympics and the Rio Games are now in the final week, so many Brazilians are asking, “Where are the medals?”
The country’s sports officials are trying to keep hopes up even though Brazil had just one gold medal, two silvers and three bronzes on Sunday.
In the build-up to the Olympics, Brazilian officials from the sports minister on down made it known they were gunning for the top 10 in the table for overall medals won.
The sports director for the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Marcus Vinicius Freire, urged patience Saturday.
“Everyone has said that this has been the best (athletic) preparation in history” by a Brazilian team for the Olympics, Freire told journalists.
“We are pursuing an aggressive but feasible goal of being in the top 10. We’re not going to analyze it prematurely.
“We’re going to wait for the 21st (of August, the close of the Games) and see how it went, sport by sport,” he said.
“We still have the goal of reaching the top 10.”
Some Brazilian sports fans are a lot less optimistic.
“It’s not possible to make it into the top 10 in these circumstances. We’ve stopped winning medals in individual events,” said Roberto Moreira, 64, as he watched the women’s marathon Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.
He said the country’s deepest recession in 80 years is no time to be focused on cracking the top 10.
“This situation in the country, the crisis we’re in, I think it’s a destabilizing factor for Brazilian sport.”
Others question why the country is trying to reach the top 10 at all, given the Latin American giant’s current problems.
“Reaching the top 10 is an absurd objective in a country that’s completely ruined, with an economy in recession, a terrible education system and a destroyed social structure,” said Luis Carlos Domingues Cardoso, a 72-year-old retiree.
“At the end of the Olympics, Brazil will just be disappointed all over again when we compare what we have with what we wanted to achieve.”
The recession is not the only cloud darkening Brazil’s Olympic parade.
An multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras has stoked outrage at the political class.
The political system has in turn been all but paralyzed by a separate but equally destabilizing battle over suspended president Dilma Rousseff’s looming impeachment trial for accounting shenanigans.
Still not enough cash
With the Olympics now in their second half, Brazilian sports officials are still hoping strong performances in team sports such as men’s and women’s football, volleyball, handball and water polo can boost their pride.
They gained new room for hope Sunday when Brazilians Diego Hypolito and Arthur Mariano claimed silver and bronze in the men’s gymnastics floor competition.
The double podium finish caused Brazil to temporarily surge 10 spots in the total medal count, to 16th.
The United States led the medal table on Sunday with 25 golds, 18 silvers and 20 bronzes.
China, Britain and Germany are the other top gold medal winners.
Three of Brazil’s medals have come from judo — though it was hoping for even more.
Brazil needs to spend more on its athletes to get results, said Brazilian Judo Committee official Ney Wilson.
“The competition was tough,” he said.
“Our investment was for this Olympics. They’ve been investing for decades. I hope our investment will continue so we can catch up to the top powers.”
Brazil named its largest ever team for South America’s first Olympics — 465 athletes, shattering the previous record of 277 it sent to the Beijing Games in 2008.
It finished 16th in the overall medal table at the London Games in 2012.