Americas’ Gold: Brazil ’16 Olympics Not Just a Win for Rio

The host city for the 2016 Olympics was the capital of Brazil until 1960.
The host city for the 2016 Olympics was the capital of Brazil until 1960.

The world’s eyes are suddenly fixed on Brazil and its charismatic leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva whose impassioned pleas for recognition of a coming “new world order” helped propel his country into taking home the Olympics in 2016.

It’s not hard to recognize that the selection has important and lasting symbolism. Critics will argue that staging the Olympic games is always a net loser for the host city and country. Rio, as all of its recent predecessors have done, will spend billions of gleaming new buildings, sports facilities, transportation infrastructure and people to run and manage all of this new stuff.

But since it’s really about symbolism, recognition and a forced reconsideration of which countries will hold more economic and political influence over the next decade, Lulu has done his country and the entire Americas’ region a great service. “It is South America’s bid,” Lulu said in his now historic speech to the International Olympic Committee. “This is a continent that has never held the Games. It is time to address this imbalance.The opportunity now is to extend the Games to a new continent. It’s an opportunity for an Olympics in a tropical country for the first time, to feel the warmth of our people, the exuberance of our culture and the sensation of our joy.”Rio is ready. Give us the chance and you will not regret it.”

In his grand gestures of asking the IOC to look at the whole of South America as a potential winner in the bidding, it is now up to Lulu and other leaders in the Americas’ to help validate the new, emerging image of the region. Perceptions of a drug-infested underclass are common in the world’s view of major South American cities like Rio. What can Lulu and his hosts do to change these perceptions? Can Brazil use this opportunity to repair the image that many of its cities as violent and crime ridden?

By the time the world’s athletes climb off airplanes in Rio in 2016, Brazil will have become the fifth largest economic power in the world.

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The opportunity during these next seven years is for Brazil to also galvanize its reputation as a world leader in the professional services/ BPO industries.

But, in the same sentiments used by Lulu to capture the Olympics, it will not be Brazil alone that takes home the praise for building a broad, sustainable and world-class services industry.

For the world to truly pay attention and respect the services industries of the Americas’, it will need to be more of a collective effort. The common  pitch of: same time zone, cultural familiarity, close proximity and great education system can’t be used repeatedly by the 20-plus nations in Latin America if each of these nations has some hope of differentating itself from a regional neighbor or even a country in Asia or Eastern Europe.

Brazil will continue to wield increased influence in the world. The true test of being a good world citizen over time will be whether Brazil remembers its regional neighbors as it rises to a higher standard of commerce, of trade and of humanity.