There is so much more the Olympics could have taught us about Brazil

It’s now one week since the Rio Olympics wrapped up. There definitely has been a little bit of “what will we do now?” in our house. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but we enjoyed every minute of being able to watch the world’s best athletes competing, pretty well non-stop. We had a few things going for us that others may not have:

  • Atlantic Canada is in the same time zone as Rio, so the events started when we got up and ended when we went to bed.  Perfect!
  • In Canada, our cable service provided multiple sports on multiple channels all day long, in real time. Our only challenge was deciding which sport to watch.
  • I re-retired just in time to be able to stay home and watch the Olympics with a vengeance!

I could spend the entirety of this post reviewing highlights from the many sporting events; I know we all have our own favourites. We root for our fellow countrymen and women (and in Canada’s case, if it weren’t for our countrywomen there’d have been FAR fewer medals!!!), for outstanding individual accomplishments, and for the special situations where someone wins their country’s first ever gold medal. Not to mention Brazil’s gold medal in football. So many inspiring and heartwarming results.

But what I’d really like to highlight as a tribute to the 2016 Olympics is Brazil. The one thing that I do think the two weeks of Olympic coverage missed was the opportunity to present a fuller picture of the host country to the world.

We were lucky enough to have visited Brazil in 2011, with too-short visits in Rio, Salvador, and Fortaleza (previously described in A virtual cruise around South America). We have visited several other countries in South America, each of which has its own history, culture, and ethnic demographics, but all having the common denominator of having been colonized by Spain. Brazil is the only country in South America that was colonized by the Portuguese, which does contribute significantly to its own distinct flavour. If you have read any of the wrap-up articles in the news this week by sports writers who spent a few hectic weeks covering the Olympics (and possibly the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 as well), in each case they went out of their way to describe how, although there had been experiences with gaps in organizational details, long lines, etc., they had never met warmer or more welcoming people – everywhere they went in Rio. I wish those sentiments had been included in articles throughout the two weeks instead of concentrating on the imperfect until after the fact.

Let’s explore some interesting facts about Brazil that I never heard mentioned through 2 solid weeks of TV coverage – talk about wasted opportunity:

  • Brazil is the world’s 5th largest country by population (~209,000,000 people, after China, India, U.S., Indonesia).
  • Brazil is the world’s 5th largest country by land mass (after Russia, Canada, China, and the U.S. – 6th if you include Antarctica).
  • Brazil has the longest continuous coastline in the world.
  • Brazil has the largest Portuguese-speaking population in the world.
  • Football (soccer) is Brazil’s main religion (or maybe I should say “other religion”). Maracanã Stadium, which featured in the Olympics, can hold 180,000 people for football matches.
  • Portugal established claim on the territory we now know as Brazil in 1500. (We won’t go into whether it was theirs to claim!) In the early 1800s the royal court of Portugal actually moved to Brazil when Portugal was being threatened by both Spain and France. The residency of the Queen and Prince Regent for an extended period of time helped create financial and business institutions in Brazil, independent of Portugal. Prince Pedro stayed in Brazil as independence was achieved in 1822 and became the Emperor of Brazil. Brazil has a fascinating, rich history.
  • Brazil borders ever other country in South America except for Chile and Ecuador.
  • Brazil has been the world’s leading exporter of coffee for 150 years. It currently supplies about a third of the world’s coffee.
  • Brazil is a world biofuel industry leader, using sugarcane to make ethanol. With all light vehicles in the country using a mandatory fuel blend of between 18-27% ethanol, Brazil is thought to have the world’s first sustainable biofuels economy, using the most efficient biofuel in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction.
  • Brazil has the greatest variety of animals of any country in the world. It is home to 600 mammal species, 1,500 fish species, 1,600 bird species and an amazing 100,000 different types of insects. Brazil’s jungles are home to most of its animal life, but many unique species also live in the pampas and semi-desert regions.
  • The Tijuca Forest in Rio de Janeiro claims to be the world’s largest urban forest. It is enormous.  And wet, since it’s a rainforest! It was reclaimed as a natural rainforest in the second half of the 19th century, after massive amounts of land had been cleared for coffee and sugar plantations, with poor results and much erosion. A long term, massive undertaking ensued, replanting a huge swath of territory with native species. This enormous park is home to the awe-inspiring statue, Christ the Redeemer.
  • For the record, Rio de Janeiro is one of those places that is even more stunning in real life than in picture or on TV. Simply breathtaking.

I could go on and one. But I hope you can see that there is a lot worth learning about Brazil!




There is absolutely no doubt that the Olympics as they are run right now are hard to justify for their cost, the egregious expectations of the IOC for countries competing to hold the Olympics, and some of the emphases on the wrong things. But there is such an opportunity for a world-wide sporting event (207 countries represented this year) to showcase both the best in sport and what is special and unique in the different parts of the world. We need to get to know each other, to learn about what makes each country special, and build understanding. The ingredients are all there, but we’re not doing it quite right just yet.


Sources: Wikipedia, National Geographic,

Photos by Jane Fritz

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6 Responses to There is so much more the Olympics could have taught us about Brazil

  1. alesiablogs says:

    What a great picture of Brazil you give. I am glad to hear you re- retired! That’s a funny way to put it. Just in the nick of time too for this sporting event.

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    Wow what a feast of Braziliana Jane. It’s a fascinating and important country all right. And yes, the opportunity to encompass some wider reportage wasn’t taken up by the Brit media, as far as I’m aware.

    Being happily TV-less I listened to a great deal of it, but most of the climactic action was after my bedtime 🙂 As a Brit of course I’m happy with the transformation of GB sport at the elite level after having achieved exactly nothing 20 years ago in Atlanta.

    The best suggestion I’ve heard about the ongoing hoopla over the bidding and impossible financing of the Games was (1) make Athens the permanent home of the Olympics and (2) have each participating nation contribute to the cost, each according to its means.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      TV-less, wow. So that’s how you get so many books written! I should try that sometime, but I’d really miss the sports, I have to confess. I can’t imagine you could get much out of listening to Justin Rose win the really dramatic golf finish on the radio! 😉 I’ve certainly heard the idea of always holding it in Athens, which has a lo to recommend it. But somehow I missed the idea of everyone paying what they can. That’s an interesting idea, although they’d probably need a whole new bureaucracy to figure it all out and collect!. Maybe those in charge who seem to require extraordinary per diems and related high-end perks could be the first in line to contribute.

  3. jennypellett says:

    I’m so with you on the Olympics. We were glued for the duration. We even set our alarms so we could watch athletics at 1.30am! We are definitely experiencing withdrawal symptoms and are looking forward to some decent coverage of the Paralympics.
    Your Brazil facts are really interesting. Yes, they did miss a trick. I love your picture of the Redeemer in the clouds.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Jenny. I have to say that the Redeemer was one of those things that I hadn’t expected to pay much attention to, but it was absolutely overwhelmingly awe-inspiring close up (it is ENORMOUS) and also far away, from another mountain peak across the bay. Just watching it appear and disappear from behind clouds was mesmerizing.

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