It might sound weird, but Brazilians have low self esteem. As newspapers painted a grim portrait of what was supposed to be a calamitous Olympics, Brazilians braced themselves for the criticism.
But when supermodel Gisele Bundchen cruised the Maracanã stadium last Friday to the sound of the late Tom Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema,” like a goddess of grace, the entire country walked with her proudly.
There was no doubt Brazil can throw one hell of party. But lately the political turmoil caused by Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process and the recession that’s hit the country have left Brazilians wondering if the “country of the future” was becoming a past reminder of what the country could have been.
The feeling that “everything will go wrong” is known in Brazil as “underdog syndrome.” It is a familiar feeling since the government constantly fails to cater to people’s basic needs despite of the monumental tax burden imposed on Brazilians.
But that feeling left the house on Friday when the Olympic opening ceremony managed to wow the entire world. And the Olympics are not over. Not until Sunday the 21st.
But a new issue has recently emerged. The audience that saw Brazilians amaze the world with the opening ceremony for the Olympics also witnessed interim President Michel Temer buried under a chorus of boos as he briefly declared the games had begun last Friday. To those who watched it, his face said at all: in Walking Dead mode, Temer was nearly peeing his pants because he knew what he had coming. The extremely unpopular interim President is seen by a good slice of the Brazilian population as illegitimate and unfit to rule.
For some time now, Brazilians have found creative ways of expressing their discontent with Temer by finding every way possible to voice the slogan “Out with Temer.” It is all over social media, on walls, you name it. So they obviously took it to the games, to stadiums and to every Olympic event to get the message out.
Now the government and even the Olympic committee want to ban protest messages from the stadiums for what they say is “political propaganda.” The Justice Ministry went as far as to say it “disrupts the athlete’s concentration.” Right, so let’s recap here: vuvuzelas are okay but sign with the words “Out with Temer” written on it is disruptive?
Political propaganda and protesting are not exactly an Olympic novelty. In 1936, Ireland refused to attend the Olympic Games in protest of the country’s independence. In 1956, Spain, Holland and Switzerland refused to attend out of protest against the Soviet Union’s repression of the Hungry uprising. In 1957, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt boycotted the games due the Suez Crisis. In 1968, African American athletes silently protested for civil rights as they reached the podium. Over 65 nations refused to go to 1980 Moscow games over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Over the years, many African countries protested apartheid.
So, what’s so wrong about Brazilians voicing their frustration with signs reading “Out with Temer” at these Olympic games? Brazil has endured some of the worst and most corrupt politicians in the world and now is hosting an international event of epic proportions while millions of Brazilian live in the middle ages with no running water or sewage, for instance.
Now, social media are filled with videos of Brazilian being asked to leave the stadiums after silently and discretely protesting against what some people call a coup against democracy. Those are ordinary people who payed for their tickets and did nothing more than hold a piece of paper with the words “Out with Temer” written on it.
If the Olympics games are a celebration of human endurance and spirit, shouldn’t Brazilians stand up for their rights and get some recognition for fighting for their right to freedom of speech?