RIODEJANEIRO– Carlos Nuzman, head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Rio de Janeiro Pan Am Games organizing committee, showed up at a Saturday news conference with Mario Vazquez Rana, president of the Pan American Sports Organization. Nuzman was basking in the praise Vazquez rightly heaped on the 2007 Pan Am Games organizers.
Once the news conference was over, I tried to ask Nuzman a question about Rio’s plans for its 2016 Summer Olympics bid. He emphatically refused, saying he would not talk about 2016 until the Pan Am Games ended Sunday.
So I started to ask Nuzman a question on a different subject, but he cut me off.
I tried again, saying it was unrelated to 2016, and he said, “My English isn’t clear? Do you want me to say it in another language?”
No need to, Senhor Nuzman. I am sure you could have been rude and arrogant in any number of languages.
After all, this is what you said to Ed Hula of Around the Rings when he asked Monday about how the Pan Am Games had handled street crime and security:
“The problems that we have in the city, you have in all the cities of the world… . We don’t have terrorists, we don’t have troops with the bombs that kill thousands and thousands of people.”
Every major city, 2016 candidate Chicago among them, does indeed have crime and poverty problems. Who has not been horrified by the recent spate of murders of Chicago schoolchildren?
And yes, Mr. Nuzman, behind the protective wall of security put in place for the Pan Am Games, there were no reported major incidents of violence in Rio.
But it was in Rio this February that thugs who hijacked a car dragged a 6-year-old boy behind it for miles, as pieces of his body shredded before he died.
And it was in Rio this June that 100 people died as trigger-happy police battled gangs in the Complexo do Alemao slum.
An independent report by the Order of Brazilian Attorneys alleged some of the dead were victims of “cold-blooded killings” by the police.
And it was in Rio this year that a pregnant maid waiting for a bus was brutally beaten by five young men described as middle-class college students.
How do I know all that? The July 9 edition of the Brazilian magazine Epoca, beginning a story dedicated to the Pan Am Games, described the incidents, saying it hoped the sporting event would bring a truce from “one of the saddest years in the city’s history.”
And what about the incident some years ago, when police were convicted in the massacre of homeless children sleeping on the steps of Rio’s main cathedral? Or the constant gun battles between gangs and between police and gangs?
You are an attorney, Mr. Nuzman. So perhaps you best look after your own house(s) before making accusatory statements that put down those of others.
Those would be the houses that reflect the dire poverty of so many Rio residents, the houses everyone saw beside the freeway running from the main press centers and athletes village to the stadiums used for soccer and track and field. That is a freeway Rio residents usually do not dare take at night, for fear of being carjacked or hit by stray bullets.
As Canadian soccer player Rhian Wilkinson said after taking several of those trips, “I’m not used to seeing houses with only three walls.”
What do you say to that, Mr. Nuzman?
Any language will do.
Philip Hersh covers Olympic sports for The Times and the Chicago Tribune.