With the Olympics set to begin in less than three months in Rio de Janeiro, one of Brazil’s most successful soccer players has a surprisingly ominous message for international visitors: Stay away.
Brazil is getting “more ugly,” said Rivaldo, who was on the country’s 2002 World Cup-winning squad, forming part of a lethal attacking trio with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
Rivaldo warned people on social media about the violence plaguing the city, citing the killing of a 17-year-old girl over the weekend.
The message is likely to frustrate the country’s leaders, who have been trying to dispel the notion that Brazil is not ready for the games and Rio is not safe for tourists.
“We are waiting for everyone to come so we can showcase our city,” Rio de Janeiro Municipal Tourism Secretary Antonio Pedro Viegas said. “People already know our problems, but they will be surprised by Rio’s beauty and the warmth of its people.”
But violence is just one problem that Brazil is facing ahead of the games.
The coastal city of Recife is considered ground zero for the deadly Zika virus. A host of countries have issued travel warnings for areas affected by the virus, which is carried by mosquitoes. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable because the virus can cause birth defects.
Brazilian leaders are also dealing with an economic downturn and corruption scandal that may have ensnared President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor. She was in the process of being impeached, but those proceedings took an unusual twist Tuesday.
Then there’s concerns about the physical spaces.
It’s not clear if all the venues and infrastructure will be ready. And water quality is also a concern for those who will compete in Rio’s Guanabara Bay, which has been polluted by sewage.