Foreign Affairs Friday: Olympics and Brazil

As was demonstrated once again last year, this time in Beijing, the Olympic Games play an important role in international relations. Countries yearn for the prestige and recognition that come with the Games, and with winning medals. China was especially interested in using the Olympics to prove that it is a major player in the world.

In the wake of the Beijing Games, Brazil is making a bid for the 2016 Games. While China and India get most of the attention when developing nations are discussed, Brazil is rapidly becoming more powerful. It currently has the world's 10th-largest economy and is dominant in South America. Recent major oil finds promise to increase Brazil's strategic importance.

Mexico (in 1968) and China are the only developing nations to host the Olympics, and they have never been to South America. The Mexico City Olympics were not very beneficial to Mexico, and are known primarily for the "black power salute" incident and a massacre of student protesters 10 days before the Games. Mexico did not seem to gain much from hosting them.

Tokyo was the first non-Western nation to host the Games, in 1964 (including Australia in the West). These Olympics served to signal Japan's acceptance as a peaceful member of the international community less than 20 years after after WWII. (Trivia: Detroit was runner-up to host both the '64 and '68 Olympics).

While China's first Olympic bid was denied, when it bid again 8 years later, the IOC was eager to see the Olympics held in China, both to welcome China into the world community, and in hopes that the Games would encourage China to embrace international norms. Similarly, I think the IOC will want to give Brazil an Olympic boost, especially with all the talk recently of expanding the world's leadership, through organizations like the G20, in the wake of the economic crisis. And since Brazil doesn't have a record of human rights abuses and support for rogue regimes like China does, Brazil's bid shouldn't be controversial.

Brazil's competition will be Chicago, Madrid, and Tokyo. I doubt the Olympics will be given to Europe again 4 years after London. Tokyo is the front-runner now, I believe, but 8 years would be a quick return to Asia after Beijing. Maybe Obama will give Chicago a boost, since the world looooooooooves him. However, I think that, as long as Brazil is deemed to be "ready," in terms of infrastructure, modernity, and safety, they will be the pick when the bid is awarded in October.

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