The world will be watching the Olympics in Brazil, with the Opening Ceremony set for Friday. Chiefs place kicker Cairo Santos hopes they see the best of his homeland, but wonders if that will be the case.
“I’m anxious to see how the thing is going to play out,” Santos said. “I’m more anxious than excited.”
News reports leading to the Games in Rio de Janeiro have focused on negative topics: the polluted beaches and waterways, the Zika virus, and on Thursday hundreds of demonstrators angry at the high cost of hosting the Games. They protested as the Olympic torch passed through the city on its way to the Opening Ceremony. Police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
In June, the state government announced a “state of public calamity” regarding its financial crisis in preparation for the Games
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In Kansas City, professional athletes from Brazil — the Chiefs, Royals and Sporting KC are represented — await the Olympics with unease.
“It does bother me because I think we disappointed a lot of people (with) the way that we organized it,” said Paulo Nagamura, a Sporting KC midfielder since 2011. “I’m just saying that based on the things we see in the media.”
Nagamura, Santos and Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando are from Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, some 270 miles west of Rio. Santos spent three weeks in Brazil before training camp began and heard daily about the problems.
“It was the vibe you got,” Santos said. “The nation wants to pull off a beautiful event, one that will go smoothly for everybody.”
A majority of Brazilians believe that will happen according to a survey. The study by Brazilian think tank FGV conducted over the final two weeks of May suggested more than two-thirds of people living in Rio were optimistic about the Games.
The hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist attractions — got the highest marks. Transportation didn’t fare as well. Some 500,000 are expected to visit for the Games.
“It’s a great opportunity for Brazil to host and show the world that we’re a nice country,” Nagamura said. “In general, it’s great opportunity to the people who know Brazil and know there’s a lot of good things coming from there.”
The athletes have their fingers crossed.
“I’m pretty excited to watch and see all the sports,” said Orlando, who said he’s most interested in track and field. “It’s very important for Brazil.”
Two years ago, Brazil staged the World Cup without any major operational glitches. The nation’s government had endured criticism leading up to the event over delayed stadiums and protests over spending on sports despite poor public services.
Many of the same criticisms have been present leading up to the Olympics, with a few more thrown in. The World Cup surpassed expectations in organization. Brazilian athletes in Kansas City hope for the same outcome now.
“I’m just hoping we do the right things,” Santos said.
The Star’s Sam McDowell and Rustin Dodd contributed to this story.