It was 2009. The International Olympic Committee was going to choose which city would be the 2016 host for the World Olympics.
The United States had the political star, nouveau political leader Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle, giving the presentation. The other presenters were Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.
No chance to work
Despite the first lady, our presentation was a concern. All labor involved would be union-only project labor agreements, which means no Blacks nor Hispanics nor women would get much of a chance to work before and during the Olympics.
Large sections of the Southside of Chicago would fall under eminent domain. They proposed to gut historical neighborhoods and replace them with stadiums and stations for the 2016 Olympics.
The residents of these targeted neighborhoods were ready to demonstrate, fight, and sue and everything else to resist the proposed gentrification of their family homes and neighborhoods.
Political opportunists began their preparation to pounce on the “buy low, sell high” hustles.
Rio saw Chicago’s flaws. They were not going to transplant neighborhoods without a plan for empowerment. Infrastructure was already in place due to the preparation of the World Cup Soccer Games. Their hillside slums known as ‘favelas’ would be upgraded, not just leveled.
Thousands of jobs would be created. Brazil is 53 percent Black, and the largest Black population second to only Nigeria. Now, they are going to get ‘empowerment.’
Chicago lost in the first round. From then on, the glitter of the Obama Era started to tarnish.
Chicago’s investors were crushed. President of the Chicago Board of Education and member of the 2016 Olympic Committee Michael W. Scott became so depressed that he committed suicide.
I have been to Rio de Janeiro a few times. It is a 24/7 party. However, we had our most successful trade mission there. We took 84 businesses and did over $34 million in four days.
One thing that I know is that the Brazil power structure will not stand for Black empowerment.
Black Brazilians are hungry to mix with Black Americans. The disparity is about to explode in civil protest.
Looking at us
The 53 percent Black sector looks at us and knows that we did not get empowerment by being nice.
We took it to the streets and would not back down. Sooner or later they are going to emulate us.
Since winning the Olympic selection in 2009, more than 2,500 Black males have been killed by the police. They aren’t going to take that much longer.
Much of the Brazilian government is corrupt. Its largest corporation, Petrobras, is scandalized with bid-rigging. Principals in Petrobras and many of its partners are marching off to prison.
Former President Lula is considered a hero in the soccer and Olympic competitions, current President Dilma Rousseff is facing an impeachment trial for cooking the federal books. The nation’s overall economy is in the dumps.
May be a mess
The Olympic Games may end up being a horrible mess. The beach volleyball site is littered with human body parts washing ashore. Rowing teams will be rowing in polluted water.
The usual prostitution, panhandling and robberies won’t be deterred. The ongoing lethal drug wars won’t take a respite. The favelas will still be there.
No other nation in the world is being hit with the debilitating virus known as Zika like Brazil, which is becoming the new “ground zero.” Members of our Olympic team are bowing out of the competition for fear of ruining their bloodlines.
There are also reports that ISIS considering the Games as a super-soft target. That would be all that Brazil needs.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder and president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Contact him via www.nationalbcc.org.