A Brazilian federal prosecutor tells Reuters that multiple projects planned for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are under investigation for being the objects of corruption schemes, another wrench in an increasingly chaotic lead-up to the opening ceremonies in August.
Brazil’s federal prosecutors are already investigating construction projects composing a large waterfront rejuvenation known as “Port Marvel” in the host city, but prosecutor Carlos Lima says there are plenty more projects currently under the investigators’ magnifying glass. “There are more… until they are finalized we will not know how many for sure.”
Most sports facilities and related tourist projects built for the Olympics are in the hands of five engineering firms, Reuters notes. All have been implicated in a massive corruption probe known in Brazil as “Operation Car Wash.” Prosecutors have found that, for years during the tenure of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, dozens of politicians were lining their pockets by overcharging or accepting bribes for projects by the state-owned oil corporation Petrobras. Da Silva himself has been accused of purchasing a waterfront home with illicit Petrobras money, an allegation prosecutors are prohibited from pursuing because current president Dilma Rousseff named him her chief of staff shortly after the allegation surfaced, granting him executive immunity.
Rousseff is facing impeachment for misrepresenting the state of the Brazilian economy by passing executive orders to take loans out that artificially inflated the nation’s surplus. The House of Representatives voted to impeach her Sunday by an overwhelming margin.
Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha stands accused of taking over $5 million in bribes through Petrobras.
The prosecutor Lima is not in charge of investigating corruption related to the Rio Olympics projects because intelligence suggests sitting politicians are involved. In those cases, only the Brazilian Supreme Court may prosecute.
The tumultuous political situation in Brazil has alarmed many regarding the odds of the nation executing a successful Olympic Games. The nation lost its Olympics’ security chief and minister of tourism to the ongoing impeachment scandal. Workers have stopped their operations on projects complaining that they are consistently getting paid late. International Olympics observers are complaining that some sports parks are suffering from routine electrical outages or faulty scorekeeping technology.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has routinely rejected any concern regarding whether the Olympic Games will actually happen.
“The Brazilian people will deliver a memorable Olympics, full of passion for sports which has made them famous globally,” an IOC spokesman said in March, in response to the new involvement of da Silva in the Petrobras case and growing concerns regarding the Zika virus. Last week, before the House impeachment vote, an IOC official asserted that the political turmoil was “not creating an impact on the games.” Shortly after the vote, the IOC sounded even more optimistic. “The Olympic Games will deliver an important legacy and provide an important opportunity to unite the people of Brazil no matter their background or political views,” the IOC said in a statement.
Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, said Tuesday he expects a “spectacular” Olympic ceremony. “We know the current economic and political situation in Brazil will continue to make final preparations challenging, but I’m convinced, and we are all convinced, that the Olympic Games 2016 will be truly spectacular,” he told reporters. “The Olympic Games enjoy strong public support from the Brazilian people and the organisers can count on the solidarity of the sporting world.”