Undercover Superheroes of Rio’s 2016 Olympics Games

By Vivian El-Salawy on August 7, 2016

Between swimmers, gymnasts, shooters, and so many other types of athletes – this years’ Olympics are full of real-life superheroes.  The amount of dedication, determination, and drive that is required for an athlete to become an Olympian is only half an ounce of what goes into what they do and who they are.  However, it is not just the athletes participating in the 2016 Olympic Games that are the superheroes of the event, but perhaps those who put in the effort to make the Games the ultimate experience.  Here are just some of the undercover superheroes of Rio’s 2016 Olympics:

Rio’s Waste Pickers

Image via The Plaid Zebra

This sounds silly, but in all seriousness – Rio’s waste pickers have come a long way to have the opportunity to work with the 2016 Olympics.  According to an article by Sam Cowie with the Guardian, Rio authorities partnered with Coca-Cola to fund a waste pickers program in order to put a spotlight on one of Brazil’s most marginalized professions.  In an interview with the Guardian, Claudete Da Costa reflected on how she began working as a waste picker around the age of eleven, alongside her mother.

“We were ashamed,” she says to the Guardian.  “People saw us and spat at us, thought we were thieves.”

Da Costa, along with 240 other pickers, were contracted by Coca-Cola to handle recyclable waste during the Olympic Games.  They are additionally being paid a fixed daily salary over twice their normal salary.

“Brazil is only beginning to understand the advantages of recycling, of selective collection,” Haroldo Mendonça responds to the Guardian as the solidarity economy coordinator at the labor ministry. “But we can give an example to other countries to show how to combine environmental care with economic empowerment.”

These waste pickers are the first huge step in creating a recycling pattern for not only Brazil’s future events, but for the local community and other upcoming athletic events all over the world.  These employees are a model of for many others to replicate beyond just this years’ Olympic Games.

Rio’s Construction Workers

Image via Think Progress

Let us not forget the eleven construction workers who died making the Olympic Games happen.

“It’s a shocking number of deaths,” Cynthia Lopes, a public prosecutor at the state of Rio de Janeiro’s labor courts, told ThinkProgress. “The Brazilian construction industry has a bad record when it comes to health and safety, but when you have a fixed deadline to deliver projects, as is the case with the Olympics, things get even worse.”

In fact, this is nothing new – according to Joaquim Moreira Salles, eight workers died during construction for Brazil’s World Cup in 2014 alongside six deaths during the preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The working environment for construction workers for large athletic events, regardless of the region, have never been safe and very little has been done towards the improvement of their work environment.  It is important to remember these workers, as their deaths could have easily been avoided and perhaps a greater deal of coverage will enable a progressive movement towards more inspections and suspensions and less infractions.

Rio’s Medical Volunteers

Image via CNN

According to CNN News, a Brazilian native, Dr. Marttos, has spent most of the past three years “commuting back and forth from his home in Miami to ready the facility (Olympic Village Polyclinic and Americas Medical City facility) for the 2016 Olympics”.

The Olympic Village Polyclinic has been set aside for Olympic spectators, whereas Americas Medical City facility is set aside to cater for Olympic athletes and other Olympic dignitaries and VIPs.

Dr. Marttos reported to CNN News that the full-service healthcare is run by a staff of over 5,000 doctors, nurses, and other medical personal that are all volunteering to do these jobs.

There are many concerns over the status of Olympic Village Polyclinic and the lack of improvement in waiting times, however Dr. Marttos responds to CNN saying “I can say that for all the athletes, for all the people inside the venues, if they need us, we’re going to be ready to take care of them.”

Having a staff of over 5,000 medical volunteers from all over the world goes a long way in showing just how far individuals within the medical field will go to care for not just athletes, but your average Joe too.

Rio’s Opening Ceremony Creative Directors  & Choreographer

Image via Watch Live Sports

The creative directors for the ceremony were Fernando Meirelles, Daniela Thomas and Andrucha Waddington.  In addition, Brazil’s most celebrated choreographer Deborah Colker prepared a cast of over 6000 volunteers who danced in the ceremony (CCTV).

According to a Bloomberg article, the budget for Rio’s Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was only 10% of London’s lavish opening, however many spectators present and worldwide agreed that it was just as, if not more captivating.

Their abstract ceremony opened with aerial images of the city of Rio de Janeiro and focused primarily on the evolution of Brazil.  Topics such as peace and sustainability were covered, alongside slavery and other crucial issues that deserve to be talked about or even touched on in an artistic way.

Perhaps one of the most surprising segments of the 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony was the climate change segment.  Anthropogenic climate change is actually one of the themes of this year’s event, which is relevant as a worldwide issue.  Its opening message stated:

“Promoting world peace is the basis of the Olympic spirit.  Today, there is an urgent need to also promote peace with the planet”.

Image via Ron Wilson

While the creative directors and choreographer did not get nearly the type of spotlight as the opening ceremony did, it is crucial to thank these undercover superheroes for using their juices to create a beautiful spectacle on such a low budget.  Furthermore, an even greater amount of respect should be given to these few individuals for touching on some of Brazil’s most important and often times unspoken history, along with the emphasis on creating a better, and safer environment worldwide.

All in all, the 2016 Rio Olympics have definitely kicked off with a bang.  It is important to take a moment to honor on those who lost their lives building the various Olympic sites, not only in Rio but in previous events as well.  It is important to recognize those who offer their medical assistance as volunteers and those who have come from difficult backgrounds to serve as models for a recycling project.  Take a knee for the creative directors and choreographer who put together the show of a lifetime that all kinds of people from all over the world will not only reflect on, but also act on.  In fact, don’t be afraid to take that first step yourself.


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